Understanding Risks

Asthma in the Workplace

Asthma is a disease that's always on the mind of those who have it, as attacks can occur at almost any time and in almost any place. Most people go somewhere for work every weekday, and given the number of different triggers that have been identified through promising research over the years, the medical science community has been able to identify with specificity a number of these asthma attack irritants.

Below is a look at asthma in the workplace, and if you find yourself working in a place that's making your asthma worse, you need to think about what steps you can take to correct the issue, as long–term exposure to asthma triggers can be harmful to your overall health.


Occupational Asthma

Asthma in the workplace has become so prevalent that the term 'occupational asthma' has become a generally accepted term that refers to a specific type of asthma. Many different entities have studied this phenomenon, and the Mayo Clinic, a world-renowned medical facility in Minnesota, has published not only a definition of occupational asthma but also a list of symptoms to watch for if you think you may have contracted it. Each body of information appears below.

Occupational Asthma Defined

The Mayo Clinic defines occupational asthma as a lung condition caused by inhaling workplace fumes, gases or dust. In developed countries, it's the most common work-related lung disease. Occupational asthma can develop if you never had asthma before or had childhood asthma that later cleared. It can also worsen any pre–existing asthma.

When recognized and treated early, occupational asthma is usually reversible. But the only sure way to prevent the worst consequence of occupational asthma – permanent lung damage – is to completely avoid whatever is causing the condition. If that's not possible at your workplace, your doctor may recommend that you find a new job in a different line of work as the best approach to occupational asthma.

Symptoms of Occupational Asthma

The Mayo Clinic identifies symptoms of occupational asthma:

  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest tightness
  • Difficulty exercising
  • Runny nose
  • Nasal congestion
  • Eye irritation

Even though occupational asthma usually only presents symptoms while the patient is at work, the later stages of the condition could lead to attacks and symptoms whether the person is at work or not. If you suspect you have occupational asthma, you need to see your doctor as soon as possible, as there could be treatments available that will help you overcome this problem.