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When I go to work, I have noticed that I get a headache and congestion. This is when I'm in the office. This doesn't usually happen when I work from home. What could be causing it? What can I do to help with the symptoms?

An explanation could be that there is an irritant or aggravating factor in your office, that is not in your home. You could have a condition known as non-allergic rhinitis or vasomotor rhinitis. It causes sneezing, nasal congestion, runny nose, postnasal dripping, cough, and/or headaches. Common triggers include:

  • Strong odors (e.g., perfumes)
  • Cleaning products
  • Air pollutants
  • Passive tobacco smoke
  • Changes in the weather
  • Other airborne irritants

This can be a frustrating problem. It is not always easy to manage. Identifying and eliminating the triggers can be very helpful. Sometimes air filters and moving your workspace can be useful. There are treatments that can be useful to manage symptoms of vasomotor rhinitis. These include nasal saline irrigation and topical nasal steroids.

Notify your boss or employer of your condition and the importance of avoiding triggers. Some workplaces have occupational health departments. They can assist you with this situation. They’ll find reasonable ways to reduce relevant exposures and symptoms.

Accommodations, Allergy, Nasal Allergy (Rhinitis), Workplace
Answered by

John M. James, MD, is a board-certified allergist. He is also President of Food Allergy Consulting and Education Services, LLC. He has worked as a medical specialist in the field of allergy, asthma, and immunology for over 30 years. Dr. James received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Arkansas and his Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Tennessee. He is board certified by the American Board of Allergy and Immunology.

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