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  • Allergic, but to what?

    It seems like I have an allergy. That is what my eye doctor thinks. However, I have made some observations and I wanted to ask you guys what you think.

    It seems like I only get really violent symptoms at work. Recently I was sick for a while and stayed home for a week. In addition, I this week I was working from home some days, some not, so I could test how I feel. My conclusion is that when I am at home or anywhere else but work, my symptoms are very mild and the longer the time I am away from the office, the better I get. When I am in the office, I gradually get worse and worse, and each additional day that I go there adds to my symptoms I was getting better on the weekends since the problem started, but never had a chance to fully recover.

    It is not connected with the usage of the computer, cause working at home does not worsen my symptoms at all. My eye problems started 3rd day after I began working in that office.

    The question is, what do I do now? How can I test what exactly is causing the problem? Any ideas/advice?

  • #2
    Go to an allergist, tell them exactly what you just said here and they will know what to test you for. They'll do the skin tests where they prick your arm with about 20 different little pokey things (not painful - just a prick) each one has a bit of some allergen on it. Usually, it will include dust, various molds, and all kinds of stuff.
    In the meantime, is smoking allowed in your office? You could be allergic to 2nd hand smoke. Do they clean the air conditioner filters regularly (probably not)? God knows what kind of crud is coming from those things. Do the windows open are you in one of those sealed-in buildings? Everything just recirculates in those places. And if that is the case, there are OSHA requirements that the buildings keep their filters really clean but most of them don't. You could contact OSHA (Occupational and Safety Health Administration) and have them do an inspection of the workplace.

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    • #3
      I'm having the same problem.

      Ask around your office, does anyone else have dry eyes? I've described the symptoms to my colleagues, who have been really supportive of my problems over the past couple of months.

      Guess what? One girl has almost identical symptoms! Except her's isn't such an issue as she wears glasses, and the whole problem about this has been it's stopped me wearing contact lenses, hence I notice the problem more.

      Three others say their eyes are sore and gritty after a whole day in the office. Some of them aren't office bound all day every day, and notice it more when they are deskbound for eight hours.

      We've had the air con filters changed (the air con guy even said he has dry eye and understands the problem!) but to be honest, it's coming up to spring here so whenever the air con kicks in, I switch it off again anyway.

      I'm waiting for health and safety to come and test the office to see if they can install a humidifer or something.

      Speak to your colleagues -- they might feel the same!!!

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      • #4
        Thank you for your responses.

        NYer - No, smoking is prohibited in my building. I work and live in New York City, so I am lucky not to be exposed to second-hand smoke. However, I work in one of those huge office buildings that have air conditioning all year round and the windows do not open at all. I am in a relatively large open space. I know that some people have dry eyes, but nobody has such bad reactions as I do. Unfortunately, my company is not very accomodating and any special requests are not welcome, so I do not know if I can do anything about it.

        So how do I get OHSA to come to test the building?

        I worked in the other building before that was also of this type and I never had any eye problems, so I do not think it is air-con in general, this must be in this very one.

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        • #5
          Yeah, I'm in NYC, too, and I've often worked in those giant sealed buildings. Here is the web site for OSHA:
          http://www.osha.gov/
          The site is a bit overwhelming and my eyes are hurting right now so I can't search through it but here is there contact info...it's probably easier to call and ask anyway:

          IF YOU HAVE WORKPLACE SAFETY AND HEALTH RELATED QUESTIONS:

          [By Phone]:
          1-800-321-OSHA (6742) {Toll Free U.S.}

          [Write To: (required for an Official Agency Response*)]
          [DOMESTIC ONLY]
          U.S. Department of Labor
          Occupational Safety & Health Administration
          200 Constitution Avenue
          Washington, D.C. 20210

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          • #6
            NYer thank you very much.
            I am seeing an allergist on Thursday. This week I am back to the office full-time, and today at the end of the day the agony is back :-(

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            • #7
              Update

              I have seen an alergist today. He run the tests and guess what? I am highly allergic to dustmites. He wrote me the note for work to change my chair (they can be in upholstery), remove carpeting and shut the vent above my head. Well, my employer is not going to remove carpeting, obviously. But I am getting a new chair that is not upholstered and a plastic floor mat to cover the carpet in my cube. I can see the light in the tunnel!

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              • #8
                Blue, that's great that your employer is being cooperative about all that. Since they can't remove the carpet, keep in mind that that is probably the biggest source of dust mites in your office. So you may want to consider picking up a spray that gets rid of them. I just bought one at Bed Bath and Beyond. I haven't used it yet, so I cannot tell you if it works or not. But it's called "Mite Allergen Relief" It says that it's not a pesticide - it supposedly works by "encapsulting mites, their carcasses, their waste (ew), and their food source." Then, you just vacuum it up. Obviously you don't do the vacuuming but you might want to find out what day the cleaning staff comes in to vacuum and you could spray the stuff earlier that day before you leave and then they'll just come in and vacuum.
                I know there are other products on the market - you could google that.
                It's also really good that they're closing the vent over your head. Those office barely ever (if ever) clean the ventilation filters. That's why when one person in the office gets sick, everyone does. There's a lot to be said for working outside (on a farm).
                I hope things get better for you now!

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                • #9
                  NYer that is a great advice. I will definitely get that spray. By tomorrow, I am going to know everything about dust mites

                  I was amazed how fast my company reacted! The magic word was "doctor's note." They send a guy 2 hours after I talked to them with the plastic mat and he covered 100% of the floor in my cube. The vent is already shut too. They claim that they change A/C filters monthly.

                  There is definitely germs spreading in this office, almost everyone was sick at some point last month. Other thing is that people come to work when they are sick and get everybody else infected.

                  I feel today as if I won a lottery.

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                  • #10
                    Hi,
                    Did you know you can buy an ultraviolet light that kills dust mites?
                    I bought mine at Sams Club. But if you don't belong you could get it online.
                    It is called Purelight by Enputech.
                    It is for use in hotels and such. I think someone makes a portable one.

                    I am curious, have you improved?
                    Do you do anything different on days you go to work, like use hairspray or something you don't on off days?
                    I have the same problem, worse at work, but I am a flight attendant, so no office.

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                    • #11
                      I work where there is reciruclated air too, and so I run a humdifier day and night there and use antibacterial filters in it and change them monthly. Makes a huge difference.

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                      • #12
                        Sky, does the ultraviolet light actually work? Can you tell? I'd much prefer that to sprays.

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                        • #13
                          Yes it works, just like on CSI. It is a bit weird seeing all the biological matter though. It kills germs too.

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                          • #14
                            I am cured!!!

                            I was thinking I will write an update.

                            After 1 year of dealing with the problem I described above and using all kinds of steroid drops, artificial tears, anti-allergy pills as well as Restasis, I was miserable. I started getting depressed, could not sleep at night dreading how the next day would be like. I was in severe eye pain every day. Still, on the weekends, I would get a bit better, and then as soon as I entered my office, it would get worse. I tried not to share my problem at work, and those who knew did not really treat it seriously... my boss never believed me.

                            An then... the financial crisis came and I got laid off. Probably because of that. I was never willing to stay late like others did, just because all I could think about was getting out of there. Or maybe it was my red eyes - people used to ask me if I party really hard...

                            On the day I got laid off all I felt was relief.

                            I did not get better right away. After a month I discontinued Restasis. For a while, I still would get red eyes on the subway or on the commuter train. Three months later I was totally fine, producing real tears and having no redness at all! For the next several months I was living in fear that the problem would come back. It never did.

                            It has been over a year and a half now. I turned my life around - I went back to grad school, I am starting a new career. I am fine.
                            Last edited by Blueyes; 21-Jun-2010, 09:24.

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                            • #15
                              What a nice update

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