If you work, you should know about work-related asthma. Work-related asthma is a serious breathing disease that is caused by, or worsened by, something at your work.
All kinds of workers can get work-related asthma: painters, hairdressers, nurses, farmers, janitors, teachers, and many others. Many things can cause work-related asthma, including dust, mould, fumes and chemicals. In the case of dairy worker Marcel Lemire, it was a cleaning agent that gave him occupational asthma. Read Marcel's story about developing asthma on the job.
Learn about the risks of work-related asthma and take steps to protect yourself. If you have symptoms of work-related asthma, see your doctor and get help. It’s best to catch work-related asthma early, before it does too much damage. There are treatments for work-related asthma that can help you feel better.
There are two kinds of work-related asthma: occupational asthma and work-exacerbated asthma.
Some people develop asthma for the first time because of something at their work – paint, fumes, or dust, for example. They didn’t have asthma when they started the job, but something at work gave them asthma. If you have asthma that developed because of something at work, you’ve got occupational asthma.
In some cases, occupational asthma develops slowly, over many months or years. In other cases (for example, if there’s a chemical spill), you can get occupational asthma quickly, in a few days.
Some people who already have asthma find that something at work makes their symptoms worse – it could be pet dander, exercise or another trigger. If your asthma is made worse by something at work, you have work-exacerbated asthma (also called work-aggravated asthma).
People may notice work-aggravated asthma their first day on the job. It doesn’t need time to develop.
How common is work-related asthma?
Overall, doctors think that 25% of working adults with asthma have symptoms that are work-related; their symptoms are caused or worsened by something at work. And doctors say up to 10 - 15 % of new asthma cases in adults can be blamed on something in the adult's workplace.
Find out more about work-related asthma:
The information in this section is based on the 2008 publication entitled “Diagnosis and Management of Work-Related Asthma: American College of Chest Physicians Consensus Statement”. Tarlo et al., Diagnosis and Management of Work-Related Asthma. Chest September 2008 134:1S-41S; doi:10.1378/chest.08-0201.
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