Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Asthma Health Center

Select An Article

Occupational Asthma

Font Size

Occupational asthma is asthma caused by, or worsened by, exposure to substances in the workplace. These substances may cause asthma in one of 3 ways:

Examples of occupational asthma -- also called work-related asthma -- include:

Recommended Related to Asthma

Asthma and Diet

There’s no special asthma diet. We don’t know of any foods that reduce the airway inflammation of asthma. Beverages that contain caffeine provide a slight amount of bronchodilation for an hour or two, but taking a rescue inhaler is much more effective for the temporary relief of asthma symptoms. However, a good diet is an important part of your overall asthma treatment plan. Just like regular exercise, a healthy diet is good for everyone. That goes for people with asthma, too. Obesity is associated...

Read the Asthma and Diet article > >

  • Health care workers who develop an allergy to latex gloves by breathing in the powdered proteins from the inner lining of the gloves
  • Workers in the chemical industry who are exposed to substances like ammonia and develop symptoms of asthma as the result of an irritant effects, not an allergic reaction

There are numerous substances used in various industries that can trigger occupational asthma including:

  • Chemicals such as adhesives, shellac and lacquer, plastics, epoxy resins, carpeting, foam and rubber, insulation, dyes (textile workers), and enzymes in detergents
  • Proteins in animal hair and/or dander
  • Grains, green coffee beans, and papain (an extract of papaya that may trigger a latex allergy)
  • Cotton, flax, and hemp dust, commonly found in the textile industry
  • Metals such as platinum, chromium, nickel sulfate, and soldering fumes

How Do I Know If My Asthma Could Be Work-Related?

Generally, if your asthma symptoms are worse on days that you work, improve when you are at home for any length of time (weekends, vacations) and then recur when you return to work, occupational asthma should be considered.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Occupational Asthma?

Symptoms of occupational asthma include general symptoms of an asthma attack, such as coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, and breathing difficulty. Eye irritation, nasal congestion, and/or runny nose may also be present. As stated previously, this can be allergy-related or an irritant reaction from exposure to asthma triggers in the workplace.

If you think you have occupational asthma, ask your health care provider about a referral to an asthma specialist. The specialist will perform a detailed exam, including taking your past medical history and reviewing current breathing problems. After any necessary asthma tests, the specialist will develop an asthma treatment plan, which will include asthma medications, such as bronchodilators, asthma inhalers, and inhaled steroids to control your asthma. It will also be important to avoid any asthma triggers at work.

Next Article:

When Is Your Asthma Worse?

When Is Your Asthma Worse?

Take the WebMD Asthma assessment to get Personalized Action Plan

Start Now

Today on WebMD

Lung and bronchial tube graphic
5 common triggers.
group jogging in park
Should you avoid fitness activities?
asthma inhaler
Learn about your options.
man feeling faint
What’s the difference?
Madison Wisconsin Capitol
woman wearing cpap mask
red wine pouring into glass
Woman holding inhaler
Man outdoors coughing
Lung and bronchial tube graphic
10 Worst Asthma Cities