asthma develops when a person is exposed to a
particular inhaled substance in the workplace. The term refers to new cases of
asthma. But workplace exposure to substances that cause airway irritation or
inflammation can make asthma worse in people who already have the condition.
About 10% of adult asthma is classified as occupational asthma.1
Occupational asthma is the most common form of work-related lung
disease in many countries. When a person develops asthma as an adult,
occupational exposure is a likely cause.
A bronchodilator is used by almost all people with asthma as a way to open the airway passages.
Short-acting bronchodilators are used as a "quick relief" or "rescue" medication, while long-acting bronchodilators are used every day to control asthma -- in conjunction with an inhaled steroid.
People who have occupational asthma usually have symptoms during the
workweek, such as coughing, wheezing, and chest tightness. These may develop
hours after leaving the workplace. Symptoms generally improve during weekends
The diagnosis of occupational asthma requires detailed documentation
of exposure to irritants or
allergens in the workplace and evidence that these
substances are causing symptoms. In a test called specific inhalation
challenge, you are exposed to a small amount of a possible workplace irritant
or allergen. Lung function is then measured to find out whether the substance
is the cause of symptoms.
Treatment of occupational asthma consists of:
Trying to reduce your exposure to possible
triggers. You may try to improve the ventilation in your work area. Or you
might wear a type of breathing mask called a respirator.
medicines to treat your symptoms. Medicines used to treat occupational
asthma are similar to those used to treat other types of asthma. These include
corticosteroids to reduce
inflammation and quick-relief medicines (such as
bronchodilators) to help you breathe during an asthma
You may need to change your job if your symptoms do not improve even
when you avoid possible triggers and take medicines. Talk with your doctor or asthma specialist before changing your job.
In this article
This information is produced and provided by the National
Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National
Institute via the Internet web site at http://
.gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.
WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
February 22, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor.
Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this