Just because you have symptoms of asthma, such as wheezing, coughing, or difficulty breathing does not mean that you have asthma. Other health conditions have symptoms that may mimic asthma symptoms. Let’s look at some common "asthma mimics."
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.