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You may get occupational asthma by breathing in irritants at work. It is often reversible. The symptoms may go away when you avoid the irritants. But, long-term exposure can cause lasting damage. Examples of workplace irritants include:
Some airborne irritants in the workplace include:
Type of occupations/environments at risk
Chemical dusts and vapors
Isocyanates, trimellitic anhydride, phthalic anhydride
Makers of foam mattresses and upholstery, insulation, packaging materials, plasticizers, and polyurethane paint
Bacterial dusts, dander, hair, mites, protein dusts, small insects
Farmers, animal handlers, kennel workers, jockeys, and veterinarians
Cereals, coffee, flour, grains, tea
Millers, bakers, and other food processors
Cotton, flax, and hemp dust
Dusts from cotton and textile industry
Cotton and textile workers
Chromium, nickel sulfate, platinum, soldering fumes
Makers of metals and refineries
Occupational asthma symptoms are the same as asthma. They include:
These symptoms may get worse when you are at work and better when you are not at work. Symptoms may not appear until several hours after the exposure, and in some cases may not become apparent until several months after starting a job.
During later stages of occupational asthma, symptoms may become a problem during exposure to more common triggers, such as smoke, dust, and temperature changes.
Treatment for occupational asthma includes avoiding the substance that triggers the asthma symptoms. Also, avoid inhaling gases, such as chlorine, or nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide. These things can make asthma symptoms more severe. Other treatment may include medicines to control the asthma. Advanced treatment may also include:
The best way to prevent occupational asthma is to avoid the triggers. If symptoms occur at work, you may need to change jobs or work in a different environment in the same company. Certain steps can help cut the risk of occupational asthma:
How cigarette smoking contributes to occupational asthma is not fully known. But smokers are more likely than nonsmokers to get lung problems in general.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:
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