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Toolbox talk on allergies: Protect your employees and respect the Health and Safety Regulations!

by , 05 June 2015
You may think that such a minor thing as an allergy is nothing to be worried about. But here's the thing: Allergic reactions can be fatal so use a toolbox talk to teach your employees how to recognise and protect themselves from allergies!

Here's what to tell them in your toolbox talk:

Content for your allergy toolbox talk

Millions of people suffer from allergies and these are caused by thousands of reasons.

What does this tell us about the body's immune defenses, and is it possible to stop allergies from developing?

Let's look at the following example:

Belinda worked at a chemical factory for 15 years. She often had a runny nose and itchy eyes but thought nothing of it. In her 15th year at the factory, she became very sick. The runny nose and itchy eyes had turned into something far more serious. Her doctor diagnosed her with acute asthma. Six months later, she was in the critically ill ward at the hospital and almost died.

Belinda had been exposed to little bits of chemicals every day until her immune system just couldn't fight it anymore.

The risk of this?
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Allergies are caused when your immune systems can't deal with a factor of the environment you work or live in. This causes an allergic reaction. And if you don't take care of it, it can become quite serious.

Know that allergic symptoms include sneezing, wheezing, itching skin and eyes and other violent reactions such as gastro, nausea etc., which our immune systems don't or can't cope with. Pollen, cat fur, house dust, peanuts and other substances, called allergens, are only the trigger.

What's the danger?

It's important to keep in mind that the body reacts differently when it's first exposed to an allergen to the way reacts to further exposure. The difference between a normal immune reaction and developing an allergy is the outcome.

Our body is very successful at defending us against attack. The entire external surface of our body's are covered with a continuous cell layer called epithelium, which keeps out most infectious agents, called pathogens, and other foreign particles.

Moreover, on the inside of our bodies there's an army of immune cells, which challenge anything crossing the barrier and the first time a particular pathogen infects the body the immune system takes some time to fight it off.

And this is why during this process you feel ill. The immune system has a memory; when you're exposed again, the immune system is ready for it. Later on, the exposures are met with a much faster and effective immune response. This is the basis of immunity.

Explain to your employees that the first time you're exposed to a potential allergen, you experience few or no symptoms. In spite of this, your immune system is silently reacting as if a pathogen were present, memorising it for further exposure. In non-allergic people, the immune system has already identified the potential allergens as harmless, and doesn't respond the next time it meets them.

Those who are allergic have an immune system that immediately attacks allergens, reacting as though they are pathogens. This is what leads to the symptoms of allergy.

Tell your employees how they can protect themselves!

While nobody is entirely sure, there are many possible reasons why we become allergic. The development of allergic disease depends on genetics and the environment; allergies tend to run in families. The genetic to allergies is called atopy, and the activity of the genes for atopy is governed by the environment.

So if you have symptoms, get yourself checked out by your doctor. It's too risky too wait, it can be too late!

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