What Is Occupational Asthma?

Occupational asthma is a condition wherein a person develops asthmatic symptoms such as coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath when inhaling fumes, gases and dust in the workplace. Occupational asthma can develop in people without any previous history of asthma or had the condition but has been cleared.

Causes of occupational asthma

Occupational asthma can be caused by a variety of substances found at the workplace. They can be caused by certain chemicals, irritants, certain metals, enzymes as well as plant and animal substances.

These substances can either cause occupational asthma in people through direct irritation, allergic reaction due to continued exposure to the substance or through a pharmacological reaction that leads to an increased natural production of certain body chemicals that can trigger occupational asthma.

Symptoms of occupational asthma

The most common symptoms of occupational asthma include coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath. Some may experience chest tightness as well as having increased difficulty in doing certain physical tasks. These symptoms can sometimes be accompanied by a runny nose, eye redness as well as nasal congestion.

How occupational asthma is diagnosed?

Diagnosis of occupational asthma involve trying to determine whether the workplace environment may be causing the asthma or is making it worse. Doctors may ask patients about the symptoms as well as questions regarding a person’s work and how the condition may be related to it. Certain tests may be taken such as spirometry, a non-invasive test that can determine how well a patient breathes.

Part of the evaluation may include having the patient bring a peak flow meter which measures the rate air flow a person can force out of the lungs. This device can be used at certain intervals during working and non-working hours to determine occupational asthma.

How to treat occupational asthma?

Treating occupational asthma include the use of asthma medications to help relieve the symptoms. Medications include inhaled corticosteriods usually used to provide long term treatment to reduce inflammation.

Quick reacting medications are also administered to provide quick relief for congested airways. Alongside the treatment, doctors usually also suggest avoiding the workplace causing the asthma, which may require changing jobs.