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
WebMD

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
WebMD

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
    WebMD

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community
    WebMD

    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

Font Size
A
A
A

Occupational Asthma - Topic Overview

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.

Occupational asthma develops when a person is exposed to a particular inhaled substance in the workplace. The term refers to new cases of asthma. About 16 out of 100 adults who have asthma have it because of exposures at work.1 Workplace exposure to substances that cause airway irritation or inflammation can also make asthma worse in people who already have the condition.

Recommended Related to Asthma

Stress and Asthma

Stress is a common asthma trigger. An asthma trigger is anything that brings on asthma symptoms. When you have stress and asthma, you might feel short of breath, anxious, and even panicked. Stress may cause your asthma symptoms to worsen and cause you to feel frightened. When stress levels start to creep upward -- whether it's over bills, work, or your kids' jam-packed calendar -- asthma symptoms can kick into overdrive. As the wheezing and coughing gets worse, your health becomes one more reason...

Read the Stress and Asthma article > >

There are some things that may cause occupational asthma and certain professions in which people might be exposed to them. These include:

  • Flour dust (bakers, millers).
  • Wood dust (carpenters, joiners, sawmill workers).
  • Plastics (plastics workers, motor vehicle repairers, foundry workers).
  • Solder fumes (electronics workers).
  • Animal dander or urine (animal handlers in research laboratories, scientists, food processors).
  • Chemicals used in the health care industry to sterilize equipment (health care workers).
  • Latex.

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 and vacations. If you have any of these symptoms, let your doctor know about them as soon as possible. The earlier you let your doctor know, the better the chances are to find out the cause of your symptoms.

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.
  • Taking medicines to treat your symptoms. Medicines used to treat occupational asthma are similar to those used to treat other types of asthma. These include inhaled corticosteroids to reduce inflammation and quick-relief medicines (such as bronchodilators) to help you breathe during an asthma attack.

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.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: /2, 14 1
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
1
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
Slideshow
woman wearing cpap mask
Article
 
red wine pouring into glass
Slideshow
Woman holding inhaler
Quiz
 
Man outdoors coughing
Article
Lung and bronchial tube graphic
Article
 
10 Worst Asthma Cities
Slideshow
runner
Article