Allergies in practice

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  Posted by: The Probe      13th June 2020

In dental practices, we always ensure that the environment is as sterile as possible. Indeed, the very notion of infection control is essential in order to prevent diseases from spreading and to keep all areas clean. But are we putting the same level of thought towards preventing allergic responses from patients and staff?

Allergens in the air, products and furnishings are likely to make a big difference to those who are susceptible, and this is something that professionals need to bear in mind to ensure that their practices remain a welcoming space for all.

They’re in the soft furnishings

Does your practice have carpet in the waiting room? What about soft chairs? It may be something you take for granted, but these surfaces can quickly start to gather dust if they aren’t regularly cleaned. In turn, this can start to become a big problem for those with certain allergies.

It’s amazing what lives in the depths of soft surfaces such as carpeting. It’s very likely that if your carpets or soft chairs aren’t cleaned incredibly regularly that there may be a high concentration of dust mites. Of course, a few dust mites are inevitable – these microscopic creatures are almost impossible to fully eliminate – but it’s when these creatures reproduce to high numbers that they become a problem. Dental practices see a large footfall during the day, especially in waiting rooms. If you bear in mind that the average person sheds enough skin per day to feed a million dust mites, you can see why these creatures can soon reach huge numbers in these areas.[i]

Although dust mites don’t scratch or bite people, they do produce an allergen in their faecal matter that can set off asthma symptoms or incite an allergic response. In fact, in a recent survey of asthma sufferers, 64% said that dust set off their asthma symptoms.[ii] As such, if you do have carpeted surfaces or upholstered chairs, it is essential that these are regularly cleaned and vacuumed. Another option is to see if you can replace these with coverings that are easier to clean but still comfortable, such as coated foam padding.

Something in the air

No one likes their dental practice to smell bad – but are you aware of the potential impact of air fresheners? Depending on the content of the air freshener you’re using, this can easily set off asthma symptoms or allergic responses in staff and patients alike.

This is a bigger problem than many people realise. Around 20% of the general population and almost 35% of asthma sufferers report problems with home fragrances (such as scented candles or air fresheners). What makes this a problem is that some home fragrances have been shown to not only set off allergies, but in some cases exacerbate them, even causing people with asthma to experience more severe attacks. This is because they contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as alcohols, esters, formaldehyde, limonene or petroleum distillates.[iii]

The best way to avoid people suffering due to these products is to select those that are free from VOCs. There are a number of air scenting devices and finely fragranced products that don’t have VOCs or which have negligible levels, making these a safe alternative for asthma and allergy sufferers.

Hand protection causing harm

Another common allergy to look out for in your practice is latex. It is thought that 5% of the general population is allergic to latex – but this number is considerably higher in people who are in regular contact with latex through their work. This is because the protein in latex that makes it so elastic can react badly with skin – meaning that common items such as latex gloves can be a problem for staff, but also for patients who may have this allergy.[iv]

Another worry with gloves is that powdered varieties can set off asthma for patients and professionals. This is because the powder on gloves acts similarly to dust particles, and can enter the lungs when breathed in.

So, what gloves should you opt for to be safe? The Specialist Gloves Range from Initial Medical offers professionals a huge array of gloves that can be powder-free or made from materials other than latex. Professionals can choose between materials such as non-latex, vinyl and nitrile, and from a huge range of colours and sizes. There are also scented gloves available to help enhance patient comfort!

Don’t let allergies impact your care

At the end of the day, allergies are something that all professionals should be aware of when cleaning their practice and choosing items such as air fresheners and gloves. Allergic reactions come in many forms, but by avoiding materials or substances that cause common allergies you can help ensure that your practice is a pleasant place to work in and visit.

 

For further information please visit www.initial.co.uk/medical or Tel: 0870 850 4045

 

Author: Rebecca Waters, Category Manager, Initial Medical

Rebecca has worked in the Healthcare sector for the past 17years and was a Research Chemist with Bayer Cropscience prior to joining Rentokil Initial in 2003.  She keeps up to date on all developments within the clinical waste management industry and is an active member of the CIWM, SMDSA and BDIA.  

 

-Ends-

About Initial Medical Waste Experts

Initial Medical is an expert in healthcare waste management, providing a complete collection, disposal and recycling service for hazardous and non-hazardous waste and offensive waste produced by businesses and organisations within the UK.

The safe management of healthcare waste is vital to ensure your activities are not a risk to human health.  Initial Medical’s healthcare waste services ensure that all of your waste is stringently handled in compliance with legislation and in accordance with Safe Management of Healthcare Waste best practice guidelines, providing you with the peace of mind that you are adhering to current legislation.

For further information please visit www.initial.co.uk/medical or Tel: 0870 850 4045

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[i] Zerorez. Dust Mites in Carpet – 10 Facts. Link: https://zerorezsocal.com/dust-mites-carpet/ [Last accessed January 2020].

[ii] Asthma UK. Dust Mites. Link: https://www.asthma.org.uk/advice/triggers/dust-mites/ [Last accessed January 2020].

[iii] Medical News Today. Air Fresheners Can Trigger Allergy Symptoms. Link: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/237311.php#1 [Last accessed January 2020].

[iv] Great Ormond Street Hospital. Latex Allergy. Link: https://www.gosh.nhs.uk/conditions-and-treatments/conditions-we-treat/latex-allergy [Last accessed January 2020].


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