Ferrell Duncan Clinic Allergy and Immunology
Occupational asthma is a lung disorder caused by inhaling or coming into contact with fumes, gasses, dust, or other substances in the workplace.
It can occur for the first time in a worker with no history of asthma, or it may be due to pre-existing asthma being reactivated by exposure to irritants in the workplace.
As with other forms of asthma, the symptoms of occupational asthma include wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, coughing, and trouble breathing. Most of the time, occupational asthma is chronic as long as the person works around on-the-job triggers, but sometimes the symptoms may come and go or be triggered by a workplace accident involving high exposure to certain fumes or dust.
Occupational asthma is usually triggered in one of three ways:
Workers who are regularly exposed to on-the-job irritants are most at risk for developing occupational asthma. This includes employees in many different industries, such as manufacturing, health care, and food processing.
Other people at risk are workers with other respiratory disorders, such as bronchitis or chronic sinusitis.
After identifying the cause of occupational asthma, the next step is to reduce the person's exposure to the irritating substance. This may mean moving the worker to a different job or providing masks or air-filtering devices.
Employers can also consider these measures:
People with occupational asthma should seek medical attention for help with medications or other treatments that can provide symptom relief and prevention. If such treatments don't work, the employee may need to completely avoid workplace irritants.