Have you ever had trouble breathing or felt like there was tightness in your chest while you were at work or perhaps experienced a series of wheezing and coughing while you were just cleaning off your desk at your office? If you did, then you probably have occupational asthma.
As mentioned in our previous blogs, asthma is one of the most common chronic illness in America. It is a disease that affects your lungs and it causes episodes of wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and nighttime or early morning coughing. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 25 million people have asthma that is triggered by different irritants. There’s a type of asthma that is triggered when you exercise. And there’s asthma that is prompted by an allergic reaction. There’s also a type of asthma that is caused by or worsened by exposure to substances in the workplace. This type of asthma is called occupational asthma.
Occupational asthma is usually caused by breathing in chemical fumes, gases, dust, or other substances on the job that you are sensitive to. This exposure to substance leads to an immunological response which then manifests through its symptoms. Occupational asthma can occur in almost any work environment including stores, offices, medical facilities, and hospitals.
Some of the most common triggers are not normally considered as hazardous. Like other types of asthma, occupational asthma can cause chest tightness, chest pain, wheezing, extreme fatigue, and shortness of breath.
So, how would you know if you have occupational asthma? You can start by answering these following questions:
If you answered yes to these questions, you need to immediately consult a doctor. Even though asthma has no cure yet, however, an allergist can help you manage this disease as to not worsen your symptoms.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that an estimated 11 million workers in a wide variety of industries in the United States are exposed to at least more than 250 substances that are believed to cause occupational asthma. Some of the triggers for the condition include exposure to latex gloves, paints, cleaning products, dust from wood, grain, and flour. It is important to note that not everyone exposed to these conditions will not develop asthma. However, there are people who are more susceptible to asthma than others especially if we consider some risk factors. These are some factors that increase the risk of developing occupational asthma which includes existing allergies, a family history of allergies and asthma, and cigarette smoking.
According to an article published by theNational Institutes of Health, the following workers are at a higher risk of developing occupational asthma:
These workers are the ones who are usually exposed to the substances or the triggers mentioned above. If you’re on the same line of job and you already have a history of asthma or allergies, you need to be extra careful and always be mindful of the substances you’re exposed to.
If you have asthma symptoms at work that gets better when you’re away from work, you need to schedule an appointment with an allergist or immunologist. They will ask you questions about your family history and perform some tests to pinpoint the cause of your symptoms. Proper diagnosis is vital to ensure that the most appropriate and proper treatment will be given to you.
You will undergo breathing tests to determine the condition of your airways. Here are some of the tests you may receive to properly diagnose your condition:
These tests can be done in your workplace to help determine how your airways will react in your work environment.
Once you’re done with your tests and your allergist already have the results, you and your allergist will now start planning on the best treatments available for you. Prevention is always the best choice of treatment when it comes to occupational asthma. Avoiding the exposure to trigger is enough to prevent the symptoms from manifesting. If your allergist recommends taking medication, then take it as directed. You really don’t have to quit your job, however, you may want to consider that especially if the treatments are not working out for you and you still get asthma when you go to work.
If you have questions regarding occupational therapy, you can consult Dr. Paul Jantzi. He is board-certified in allergy and immunology and provides professional services in the central Texas region. Schedule a meeting with him and let him help you with all of your allergy and asthma-related issues.