Occupational asthma, also called work-related asthma, pertains to asthma that is triggered or exacerbated by breathing in substances found in the workplace. These substances include dusts, gases, fumes and other possibly dangerous substances. When the lungs becomes irritated from any of these substances, the muscles around the airways causing the airways to swell, which then results to the lung producing excessive amounts of mucus that bloc the airways. Similar to all cases of asthma, occupational asthma produces the same symptoms. Treatment is also the same for other cases of asthma, where it is necessary to take medications to minimize symptoms.
Occupational asthma is reversible as long as it is diagnosed early and treated promptly and immediately. On the other hand, long-term exposure to these substances may develop into chronic asthma. To avoid this complication, avoid the trigger of the asthma attacks and if possible quit from the job.It is said to be the most common occupational lung asthma in industrialized countries while it is the second most common in developing countries (Jeebhay and Quirce 2007).
Causes of Occupational Asthma
A variety of substances found in the job can lead to occupational asthma.The most common triggers, also called respiratory sensitizers, include chemicals, wood dust, grain dust, metals, plant substances, animal substances, and fungi. However, it is unclear why people develop occupational asthma. Lung irritation in the workplace can occur from any of the three following processes:
- Irritant reaction
- Direct irritation to the lungs
- Allergic reaction
- Allergy is developed from consistent exposure to a particular substance
- Reaction in the body resulting to naturally occurring chemicals in the body to build up and result to asthma attack
Symptoms of Occupational Asthma
As previously mentioned, symptoms of occupational asthma are the same to those of all kinds of asthma attack. However, these symptoms may not necessarily instantly upon exposure to respiratory sensitizers. Symptoms may also worsen after work. The common signs and symptoms include:
- Wheezing upon exhalation or sometimes at night
- Chest tightness
- Shortness of breath or breathing difficulties
- Eye irritation and tearing
- Runny nose
- Nasal congestion
First Aid Treatment and Management for Occupational Asthma
In cases of occupational asthma, treatment is the same as with all cases of asthma attacks. If one suspects occupational asthma, seek an allergist or immunologist’s advice. In cases of an attack in the workplace, the following may be done:
- Avoid the trigger.
- If one has an action plan for asthma, follow this.
- Assist the person into sitting upright. Reassure the person and tell him/ her to remain calm.
- If the person has own asthma reliever medication, make use of this. If the person does not have, the office should have ready first aid equipment.
- Give four puffs of the reliever puffer, one puff at a time. A spacer should be used if available. Ask the person to take four breaths in between each puff. Wait four minutes and repeat the same process. If there is no improvement after the second or third try, call an ambulance immediately.
First Aid should be applied in all cases of asthma attacks, whether it is exercise-induced or work-related, to ensure that no complications occur. Enroll in First Aid Courses to learn proper treatment and management for asthma attacks, including occupational asthma and other types of asthma cases.
Jeebhay, Mohamed Fareed, and Santiago Quirce. “Occupational asthma in the developing and industrialised world: a review.” International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease. 11.2 (2007): 122-33. Print.