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.

Quick GuideAsthma Attack Signs, Treatments, and Prevention

Asthma Attack Signs, Treatments, and Prevention

What is the treatment for occupational asthma?

The mainstay of treatment for occupational asthma is removal from the exposure. Most patients with occupational asthma will get worse over time if they remain exposed, so avoidance of the trigger is important. This often means changing jobs or changing the particular duty at the workplace.

Occupational asthma can be treated the same as regular asthma, with inhaled medicines called bronchodilators that open (dilate) the airways as well as inhaled anti-inflammatory medicines (glucocorticoids). However, the most important intervention is to avoid any further exposure.

Respiratory masks do not prevent symptoms of occupational asthma.

What are complications of occupational asthma?

Occupational asthma becomes worse over time if the patient continues to be exposed to the offending agent. After a person becomes sensitized, even very small amounts of the offending agent are capable of triggering significant symptoms. The airway constriction (bronchospasm) can be life-threatening if severe.

After avoiding any further exposure, most patients will have improvement in their asthma over a span of months to years, but it is rare that occupational asthma will completely go away. People who were exposed to lower levels of an offending agent for shorter periods of time are more likely to experience eventual improvement in their asthma.

Is it possible to prevent occupational asthma?

Occupational asthma can be prevented by monitoring levels of exposure in the workplace, which may help employees from becoming sensitized to the agent. Many potential agents can be monitored continuously. Close monitoring of employee symptoms and prompt removal from the environment once symptoms arise will help prevent occupational asthma complications and maybe reduce its severity. All smokers are advised to quit smoking, and this may help prevent the development of occupational asthma.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/1/2016

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