Occupational asthma also known as work related asthma is a chronic lung disorder. Occupational asthma occurs when there is a reversible inflammation of the airways. This type of asthma is generally caused by exposure to substances at workplace. A patient of occupational asthma may develop an allergic reaction, irritant reaction, or reaction to certain substances at work place, which can result in an asthma attack. Occupational asthma can appear in any work environment be, it a store, office, or hospital. There are two main types of occupational asthma. Irritant induced asthma directly triggers the airways and causes inflammation of the airways. Immune mediated asthma is caused by the external stimulus, which initially triggers the body’s immune system causing asthma.
Causes of Occupational Asthma
There are two elements of occupational asthma- one in which there are recurrent attacks and another in which there is chronic inflammation. Occupational asthma can be a genetic disorder a patient may have a family history of asthma. The most common cause of asthma is the exposure to a trigger. The trigger may be an allergic reaction. When a person encounters a trigger, the problem appears. For example: A patient is allergic to smoke, when somebody sitting next to him smokes it triggers symptoms of occupational asthma.
The symptoms of occupational asthma may appear when a patient reaches his workplace and symptoms disappear after a patient leaves the workplace. The symptoms may come and go frequently. However, many of the patients do not have any symptom. Common symptoms of occupational asthma:
Diagnosis of Occupational Asthma
A doctor will start a diagnosis by asking a patient about their symptoms, medical history and may conduct a physical exam. After that, a doctor will order a diagnostic test to know the exact cause and the severity of the problem. The diagnostic test will include:
- A chest x-ray
- Peak flow meter test to detect the patterns related to airway process
- Spirometry test to measure the level of impaired breathing
- Blood test to check for an infection that might be causing occupational asthma
The most effective treatment of occupational asthma is to avoid the trigger this may include changing the workplace where there is less exposure to the triggers. The main aim of the treatment of occupational asthma is to prevent asthma attacks, to maintain normal lung function, to maintain healthy breathing cycle. Asthma in its initial stages can be easily treated by taking a few preventive measures. Some preventive measures are:
- Wear a mask while at the workplace.
- Quit smoking and avoid sitting next to a person who smokes.
- Take medicine as directed by your doctor.
- Adopting a healthy lifestyle, eating healthy and regularly exercising.