Healthwise
To print: Use your web browser's print feature. Close this window after printing.

Occupational Asthma

Table of Contents


Topic Overview

Occupational asthma is the most common form of work-related lung disease in many countries. When a person develops asthma as an adult, occupational exposure is a likely cause.

Occupational asthma develops when a person is exposed to a particular inhaled substance in the workplace. The term refers to new cases of asthma. About 16 out of 100 adults who have asthma have it because of exposures at work.1 Workplace exposure to substances that cause airway irritation or inflammation can also make asthma worse in people who already have the condition.

There are some things that may cause occupational asthma and certain professions in which people might be exposed to them. These include:

People who have occupational asthma usually have symptoms during the workweek, such as coughing, wheezing, and chest tightness. These may develop hours after leaving the workplace. Symptoms generally improve during weekends and vacations. If you have any of these symptoms, let your doctor know about them as soon as possible. The earlier you let your doctor know, the better the chances are to find out the cause of your symptoms.

The diagnosis of occupational asthma requires detailed documentation of exposure to irritants or allergens in the workplace and evidence that these substances are causing symptoms. In a test called specific inhalation challenge, you are exposed to a small amount of a possible workplace irritant or allergen. Lung function is then measured to find out whether the substance is the cause of symptoms.

Treatment of occupational asthma consists of:

You may need to change your job if your symptoms do not improve even when you avoid possible triggers and take medicines. Talk with your doctor or asthma specialist before changing your job.


References

Citations

  1. Tarlo SM, Lemiere C (2014). Occupational asthma. New England Journal of Medicine, 370(7): 640–649. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMra1301758. Accessed March 4, 2014.

Credits for Occupational Asthma

Current as of: October 26, 2020

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Elizabeth T. Russo MD - Internal Medicine


Note: The "printer friendly" document will not contain all the information available in the online document. Some information (e.g. cross-references to other topics, definitions or medical illustrations) is only available in the online version.

© 1995-2021 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.