Office Triggers: Hi! Hoping for some... - Asthma Community ...

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Office Triggers

Tyson88 profile image
26 Replies

Hi! Hoping for some guidance from people with greater knowledge of asthma than myself.

I had my asthma under great control during the pandemic when I was working from home (using preventer inhaler in the morning and at night-never needing my blue inhaler). In June I had to return to work in a different building then I previously worked. I tried working in 3 different offices, each of which triggered my asthma and forced me to rely on using my blue inhaler again for flare ups.

I had requested an appointment with my asthma nurse and in the meantime was placed in a 4th office. This seemed to be going better ( I was only in it briefly), but in speaking with the nurse she advised that carpet was the most likely trigger. So I asked to be moved to an office with a hard floor, which was granted. It's a really small office (about 6ft x 6ft), and has nothing in it but a desk and a PC. Unfortunately my asthma has been triggered again, worse than the previous office which had a carpet.

Long story short, my question is what could possibly be triggering my asthma in a small office with no carpet? The previous office had a window; is that possibly why it seemed to work better?

Also, would an air purifier make any significant difference?

Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

26 Replies

Hmm, tough one. Moulds are a big problem for me, could it be that? Is the chair you’re using a bit old/dusty? I think the lack of a window could be significant, fresh air is essential. I haven’t found air purifiers much help although some people swear by them, but if your employer will pay for it you could give it a try

Tyson88 profile image
Tyson88 in reply to

Thanks for your reply. The chair is fairly new so I'm guessing that's not the issue. Mould may be a possibility, but there are no obvious signs of it. I tried doing some research on the effectiveness of air purifiers, and the guidance is mixed. I do have a mini one and haven't noticed much difference with it myself. My employer would likely cover the costs, so it's something I'm considering requesting.

in reply to Tyson88

Mould spores are everywhere tho, airborne and impossible to avoid. A significant minority of asthmatics have ABPA (allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis.) I developed this out of the blue, having been a well-controlled asthmatic all my life. It’s diagnosed by a simple blood test to measure your IgE response. Often worse in autumn. It can be well controlled with antifungal meds tho. Just an idea - might be worth asking for a blood test?

Tyson88 profile image
Tyson88 in reply to

This is something I wasn't aware of. Were your symptoms flaring up, is that what prompted you to get tested?

Ts777 profile image
Ts777

All sorts of things can affect me, in an office I’d be mindful of a few things -

. Dust, how well do they clean.

. Cleaning fluids, they may use different ones than your used to

. Dust in the air con

. As already mentioned, mould spores. Air con moves these around and may also generate them. Also, are there any water leaks anywhere, that could generate mould?

. Has someone changed or started to use scented products. eg. Perfume, aftershave etc. My lungs really don’t like coconut stuff… even freshly shampooed hair

. Plants… I’m allergic to tomato plants so think further than flowered ones.

. Is there anything going on outside that could cause the air con to pump something around that’s affecting you?

That’s all I can think of, I guess others can add to the list. Good luck with it

Tyson88 profile image
Tyson88 in reply to Ts777

Thank you for the reply. Some great points here. I'm in the office myself, so scented products aren't a cause. No plants. Something you suggested that I never considered was air con - there is no air con in the office. It's basically an empty strorage room turned into an office. I'm guessing the lack of an air con and a window is a big red flag? I keep the door open into the corridor but that won't let much air in.

Gareth57 profile image
Gareth57

does the building have air conditioning? As Hanne62 mentioned, moulds can have a big affect on some people and a poorly maintained air conditioning system could be pumping mould spores around the building

Mgt8 profile image
Mgt8

Anything fabric used to affect mine. Even cleaning products that could be used in the area. Having no window also sounds like a trigger. How about your journey to work? Perhaps dusty trains.

Could you ask to work from home again if it was ok then? Or even home working for part of the week?

Hoping you find a solution...

Best wishes

Mgt

Tyson88 profile image
Tyson88 in reply to Mgt8

Thanks for your response Mgt8. Journey to work isn't a problem as it's 5 minutes in my car and I can open the window. Unfortunately I'm only allowed to work form home 1 day per week now. Would be ideal to work from home full time, but I don't think that's an option. Cleaning products have been mentioned a few times now, so that may be having an influence.

runcyclexcski profile image
runcyclexcski

Does the office have air supply (not just the air con which circulates the same stale air)? I found that offices in the UK often do not have air supply, they are just sealed boxes.

Tyson88 profile image
Tyson88 in reply to runcyclexcski

You are 100% correct, it's practically a sealed box. No Air con or window, which I'm starting to think may be the main factor. Some other great suggestions in this thread too.

runcyclexcski profile image
runcyclexcski in reply to Tyson88

You never know what's in the false ceiling etc. Can be mold, fiberglass etc. With no ventilation, it's a bad situation. It's appalling that HVAC standards in office buildings do not exist... even in hospitals offices are often "sealed boxes". Incredible.

Poobah profile image
Poobah

If you're in the UK you can request an occupational health review that will consider the risks posed by your working environment with specific regards to your health challenges. This is different to a risk assessment and is carried out by an accredited practitioner. Their review will provide recommendations for reasonable adjustments that will lower the risks. The fact that various adjustments to date haven't worked will help their review.

If your employer doesn't have access to occupational therapy services then you can use the free service provided by the government, Access to Work, gov.uk/access-to-work

In the meantime, it may be worth taking daily humidity readings. Low humidity is not uncommon if air handling systems are used to cool and heat a workplace and can trigger symptoms in asthma, eczema, headaches etc. Amazon sells measuring devices that aren't too expensive. Ideally, humidity should be at least 40%, but not too high either. Low humidity can irritate the respiratory system and cause excess mucus production or cause inflammation. Drinking more water will help to some extent, but isn't the whole answer.

It may also help the OH practitioner if you keep a symptom diary, just in case this throws up some patterns.

You could also request a review with your asthma nurse in order to review your medications and if any add ons could be made, or doses tweaked. I found Montelukast really helped me when it came to allergens.

I hope you find the right solution. All the best.

Tyson88 profile image
Tyson88 in reply to Poobah

Thank you so much for this insightful response. I wasn't aware of this occupational health review. If I can't find a solution over the next couple of weeks, that will be my next step.

The humidity device is another great suggestion. I'll purchase one of these and see what it shows.

My asthma nurse has recently switched me to Relvar Ellipta, but I was showing no symptoms prior to returning to work. My peak flow was lower than normal for someone of my age and height, so I think that may have been a factor in the change.

Poobah profile image
Poobah in reply to Tyson88

Any new med needs a few weeks trial. But if the new inhaler isn't controlling your symptoms after a solid 8 weeks then definitely see your asthma nurse again, it may just be a dose tweak that's required or/and an add on. Ideally, getting to the bottom of what is triggering things is better than just taking more & more meds. Good luck!

Tyson88 profile image
Tyson88 in reply to Poobah

I've just started the 2nd month of it but as you say, if I can just get rid of the triggers I think I will be grand. Thanks again!

runcyclexcski profile image
runcyclexcski

>>>carried out by an accredited practitioner.

In my personal experience, the practitioner does not know much, and needs to be guided to give the recommendations you (yourself) know you may need. That is, the more you know about the subject going to the consultation, the better. I had similar issues with my office, and had to tell them about the carpets, mould, leaky pipes, non-working heating etc as the possible reasons. They never came out to do an inspection of the place (which had water damage on the carpets) and did it all over the phone.

Tyson88 profile image
Tyson88 in reply to runcyclexcski

Thanks for this tip. From all the helpful suggestions above, I have plenty of possible reasons to give. I've ordered the humidity reader as suggested so I will monitor that. I think I'm going to try working in the previous office again and track my symptoms & peak flow in there as I wasn't in it long enough to get a proper grasp. It definitely wasn't as bad as the current office, even though it had a carpet.

runcyclexcski profile image
runcyclexcski

There are also companies that offer mould testing in the air, but this is rather expensive, and the answers they give are non-quantitative (i.e. they won't tell how many spores per M3 there are).

Tyson88 profile image
Tyson88 in reply to runcyclexcski

Thanks for this. I think I'm going to try switching back to the previous office and monitor how that goes. If the problems still persist, I will request the occupational health review. If I'm still having issues, the mold test may be a good suggestion if my employer is willing to fund it. I've learned so much in this thread. Thanks to everyone who has provided input.

runcyclexcski profile image
runcyclexcski

If they remain inefficient, you can write a complaint to the Govt H&S. My office has had issues for 7 years, and my employer did not do anything, even after I ended up in a hospital and went on a sick leave for 6 months. Since there was no progress, I complained to the H&S (I sent them temperature readings for 1 week which I logged myself, controlled against a "good" office), and they fixed the temperature control and the carpets in 3 days after that.

Tyson88 profile image
Tyson88 in reply to runcyclexcski

Sorry to hear you had to go through all of that in order for them to act. It's reassuring to know others have had similar issues, albeit yours much more severe. Thanks for sharing your experience.

ccccc profile image
ccccc

Hi Tyson88

Do you think it could be something in the vicinity of the building itself that's triggering your asthma? Any busy roads or woodland? Or cleaning products used to clean the building? I had a similar thing with my ex-employer - they wanted to move me to a site with woodlands next to it - sounds nice but fungal spores set off my asthma and I couldn't work there without my asthma getting worse. It's good your employer is trying to help you, mine just said 'tough luck' basically and I ended up leaving. It's hard for people who don't have asthma to understand the array of triggers out there.

Another alternative is to ask your employer if you can work from home full-time while they work out what's causing it, at least you are showing flexibility as opposed to going into work and potentially getting ill and needing time off. There's good OH and bad OH, so it might be worth getting your GP to write a letter in support if you feel it's not going your way.

Tyson88 profile image
Tyson88 in reply to ccccc

Thanks for the reply ccccc. Cleaning products and the area itself are possibilities. My employer has been OK so far in letting me try out different offices, so I'm going to continue exploring those to see if I can find a good fit. If every room causes issues, your suggestions are likely.

They do seem to be set against allowing staff to work from home more than 1 day per week, which is frustrating. I'm hopeful I can find a suitable room, and this thread has given me some great suggestions of what to look for, and what actions I can take if they become unwilling to help.

You're absolutely correct, unless you have asthma it's hard for others to understand.

MauiCat profile image
MauiCat

one of my work mates had her asthma triggered when we printed on our letterhead paper, even though the printer was two rooms (and two doors) away from her.

Tyson88 profile image
Tyson88 in reply to MauiCat

Wow, that is crazy! Something I'll keep in mind.

In a bit of an update, the office I've moved back into is not helping my asthma, so I've requested another move. I'm actually off work now with a chest infection which has been reoccurring over the past month. Hopefully I'll be back soon and will have a new office to try with a window and no carpet.

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