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Occupational Asthma: Know the Causes, Symptoms & Prevention

Occupational asthma is an ailment people mostly develop while they are exposed to gasses, dust, chemical fumes and other harmful substances at work. Like other forms of asthma, occupational asthma, too, causes shortness of breath, wheezing and chest tightness. If treated early, it may be reversible. Its treatment is quite similar to the other forms of asthma and normally medication is given to the patients to reduce the symptoms.

What Causes Occupational Asthma?

Exposure to chemicals, allergens or irritants in the workplace might cause occupational asthma. There are more than 300 workplace substances that can cause occupational asthma. Some of the most common substances are –

  • Respiratory irritants like smoke, sulfur dioxide and chlorine gas.
  • Chemicals such as diisocyanates, anhydrides used to make paints.
  • Inhalation of isocyanates.
  • Enzymes that are used in flour conditioners and detergents.
  • Metals like chromium, platinum and nickel sulfate.
  • Plant and animal substances.

Agents which cause occupational asthma are classified into two groups: smaller molecules (low molecular weight chemicals), for example, isocyanates used at rubber plant and for larger molecules an organic substance such as flour.

Symptoms of Occupational Asthma

The symptoms of occupational asthma closely resemble the symptoms of other forms of asthma. The signs and symptoms include: 

Occupational Asthma
  • Chest Tightness
  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Shortness of Breath

Other symptoms might include:

  • Nasal Congestion
  • Running Nose
  • Tearing and Irritation of Eyes

Patients will notice that these symptoms are worse while working and much better during week offs and holidays.

Prevention of Occupational Asthma

Although most of the patients of occupational asthma are provided care by the doctors and rely on medications to get rid of symptoms and inflammation related to the disease, you can do many things on your own to improve the symptoms and reduce the possibility of attacks. Some of the preventive measures are:

  • Abstain from Smoking – If you leave smoking, you will definitely improve and lessen the symptoms of occupational asthma.
  • Avoid Pollution – Industrial pollution, automobile emissions, gas stoves and chlorine used in swimming pools increase the symptoms of occupational asthma. These can be avoided for a better health and reducing the symptoms.
  • Reduce Household Allergens – Normal household stuff such as dust mites, pollen, mold, and pet dander worsen the symptoms of occupational asthma. You can get the house deeply cleaned, use dehumidifiers and air conditioners for reducing the symptoms and feel relieved.

If you are working in a high-risk job, your employer has legal responsibilities to protect you from hazardous chemicals. They should inform you that you are working with such chemicals, train you to handle the chemicals safely, and provide protective gear.

Be careful of unsafe and unhealthy working conditions and inform your supervisor about any such incidents and consult a doctor in case you notice any symptoms of occupational asthma.

Gaylord and Nantais based at Long Beach, California is one of the most trusted and reputed worker’s compensation firm. We can help the patients of occupational asthma filing claim and other important issues related to the matter. For more information, please call us at 562-424-9967.


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Thomas M. Nantais

Thomas M. Nantais

Thomas M. Nantais is the Co- owner of Gaylord & Nantais, a legal firm specializing in workers’ compensation, in the state of California. This firm deals in getting hearing loss compensation and work related injuries compensation for those who have worked in the state of California. With his sincere efforts, Thomas is committed to meet the highest standards of the legal industry, and aims to provide the clients with an honest and aggressive representation.

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