Occupational Asthma

  • Medical Author:
    Syed Shahzad Mustafa, MD

    After growing up in the Rochester area, Dr. Mustafa pursued his undergraduate studies at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and attended medical school at SUNY Buffalo. He then completed his internal medicine training at the University of Colorado and stayed in Denver to complete his fellowship training in allergy and clinical immunology at the University of Colorado, National Jewish Health, and Children's Hospital of Denver.

  • Medical Author: Allison Ramsey, MD
    Allison Ramsey, MD

    Dr. Allison Ramsey earned her undergraduate degree at Colgate University and her medical degree at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. She completed her internal medicine training at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry and remained at the university to complete her fellowship training in allergy and clinical immunology. Dr. Ramsey is board certified in internal medicine and allergy and immunology. Her professional interests include the treatment of drug allergy and eosinophilic disorders. She also enjoys teaching medical trainees. She is a member of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, the New York State Allergy Society, and the Finger Lakes Allergy Society. In her personal life, her interests include exercise, especially running and horseback riding; and spending time with her husband and two children.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Occupational Asthma Symptom

Wheezing

Wheezing is a whistling sound that occurs during breathing, usually during expiration (breathing air out of the lungs) through narrowed airways. Inflammation of the airways, bronchospasm (tightening of the muscles around the bronchial tubes), and hypersensitivity (reactivity to triggers such as allergens, irritants, or infections) all play a role in the development of wheezing. Any conditions or diseases that can constrict the airways can lead to wheezing. Wheezing can be accompanied by other symptoms such as coughing and shortness of breath.

Quick GuideAsthma Attack Signs, Treatments, and Prevention

Asthma Attack Signs, Treatments, and Prevention

Occupational asthma facts

  • Asthma is a lung disease characterized by and reversible narrowing of the airways, leading to shortness of breath, wheezing, chest tightness, and cough.
  • Occupational asthma is caused by a specific agent in the workplace.
  • Many different agents can cause occupational asthma.
  • Symptoms can begin immediately with exposure or years later.
  • Occupational asthma is diagnosed by a thorough history and physical exam, combined with lung function testing (spirometry or complete pulmonary function tests).
  • Treatment involves the use of typical asthma medications and avoidance measures for the offending agent.

What is occupational asthma?

Asthma is a chronic lung disease characterized by reversible inflammation of the airways (bronchi). This inflammation, caused by the immune system, leads to narrowing of the airways, known as bronchoconstriction. Symptoms of asthma include shortness of breath, wheezing, cough, and chest tightness. Occupational asthma is a type of asthma that is caused by exposure to a particular substance in the workplace. Previously diagnosed asthma that worsens at work is known as work-aggravated asthma.

There are two main types of occupational asthma: one type caused by an agent that stimulates the body's immune system that then triggers asthma (immune-mediated); and another where the agent directly irritates the airways (irritant-induced). Immune-mediated occupational asthma typically has a period of time (latency period) between the workplace exposure and the beginning of symptoms. This latency period can be from a few weeks to several years. In contrast, irritant-induced occupational asthma usually causes symptoms immediately after exposure.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/1/2016

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