Occupational asthma is basically that chronic respiratory disorder we call asthma, which occurs after long-term exposure to irritants in the workplace. The usual causative agents are organic or chemical dusts. Sufferers of this disease usually experience its symptoms only when they are at work. In the early stages of the disease, the symptoms may disappear a few hours after their manifestation.
But in more advanced stages of occupational asthma, its symptoms may persist despite a change in environmental condition. The reason for this is that the sufferer’s respiratory system has become so used to overreacting that it reacts excessively to the presence and action of certain substances it was once able to resist. Some examples of these substances are household dust, tobacco smoke, or even cold air.
The kinds of irritant that may cause occupational asthma depend largely on the kind of work you have. The possible causes are just too numerous; in fact, the list continues to lengthen. For example, farmers, veterinarians and others whose occupations involve handling of animals – and are therefore constantly exposed to animal hair, dander, or mites – are liable to suffer from attacks of occupational asthma.
Here are other examples:
* Smoke from burning organic material may be the cause of occupational asthma for those working for the fire department.
* In manufacturing plants, occupational asthma may be caused by vapors or various kinds of chemical dusts.
* Grain and flour are the most likely causes of occupational asthma in bakeshops.
* Timber workers can acquire occupational asthma from pine, birch, or cedar.
* Office workers are not entirely safe from attacks of occupational asthma, due mainly to poor ventilation and indoor pollution.
The best treatment for occupational asthma is to identify the substances that trigger attacks and then avoid them. This, however, may not be possible in many cases; as such, sufferers should get their doctors to prescribe drug treatment appropriate to their condition. In general, doctors will advise sufferers to stay away from smoke-filled rooms. Wearing of a face mask in the workplace can help prevent attacks of the disease, since this can effectively block airborne substances that cause irritation. The sufferer likewise is advised to wash well or shower at the end of the day’s work.
Finally, it should be made clear here that the cooperation of everyone in the workplace is a must if occupational asthma is to be effectively addressed. For instance, there may be a need for revisions in work procedures or bringing in of new equipment – both of which, of course, require management decision and approval.
1. “Occupational Asthma – Causes & Prevention,” on Workplace Safety Advice – www.workplacesafetyadvice.co.uk/occupational-asthma.html
2. “Occupational Asthma: Current perspectives” – www.agius.com/hew/resource/ocasthma.htm
3. “Occupational Asthma” – www.emedicine.com/occupational_asthma/article_em.htm