Ever since I started my new job, I've been suffering from headaches and rashes. Could I be allergic to my office?
It's possible, especially if your symptoms happen only at work. In fact, doctors have a term for this phenomenon—occupational allergies. This is more commonly a problem for, say, nurses who are sensitive to latex or builders who are exposed to a lot of sawdust. But plenty of things found in a typical office could bring on symptoms: the carpet, the cleaning materials the maintenance staff uses or plain old dust, especially if the building is old. Some people's allergies may be aggravated by compounds that off-gas from furniture or paint.
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Your doctor can do some basic testing to help pinpoint a trigger, but the real trouble is that many office-related allergens are unavoidable: You probably won't convince your employer to install new carpeting throughout your workplace, for example. Buying an air purifier with a HEPA filter for your desk can help. You can also open windows and let in fresh air, or take a daily nondrowsy antihistamine to stay ahead of reactions.
If that doesn't help, take a look at your diet since you changed jobs—are you using a different coffee creamer, perhaps? Eating at a new food truck? Cut out any additions to see if you feel better.
Stress can also bring on headaches and rashes; if you're feeling overwhelmed, discuss priorities with your boss. Even a quick check-in may be enough to ease your mind—and soothe your symptoms.
Health's medical editor, Roshini Rajapaska, MD, is assistant professor of medicine at the NYU School of Medicine.