Occupational Atmosphere and Asthma

An asthma patient has particularly sensitive air passages, or airways, resulting in difficult breathing for the patient when these air passages are irritated from an introduced substance or atmospheric change.

Among both children and adults, asthma is one of the most common chronic illnesses in countries including the United States and much of Europe.  Because asthma is considered a chronic illness, treatment regimens for patients must be followed accordingly in order to reduce the affects and ongoing health problems that can result from mismanagement of the condition.

These symptoms are a result of one or more of the following: extra mucous in the patient’s airway, swelling in the tissue of the airways as a result of introduced irritants and muscle spasms in the air passages as a result or one or both of the first causes listed.

Often times, removing the person from exposure to an allergen is simple. In still other cases, removing the allergen from the patient’s life is a little more difficult. An example of a difficult situation is when a patient is experiencing asthma attacks resulting from their work place.

A job that can trigger asthma attacks usually involves some kind of dust, chemical vapors or other fumes. In most positions, it is suspected that the amount breathed in is minimal, so that management cannot predict any negative situations.

However, because every patient reacts to irritants in ways different from their coworkers, it is not truly possible to state that an amount of irritant exposure is safe. This is true regardless of the amount of the irritant in the environmental surrounding facing the employee.

In most cases, a treatment regimen of medication and reduced exposure to the irritants can resolve the patient’s acute flare-ups resulting from their asthma. Unfortunately, this only holds true when the connection is made between the patient’s occupation and their health records.

Researchers have discovered that the environment is one of the leading causes of asthma, and acute asthma attacks.  Studies are underway to determine whether environmental modification could possible reduce – or increase – the number of asthma cases worldwide.

An employee who suspects that their occupational atmosphere is causing their asthma – or making it worse – should seek all possible treatment techniques before leaving their position. This is because in many cases, what are suspected to be occupational related asthma flare ups either are related to some other situation such as improper medications or a different irritant than the one the employee is suspecting. 

In these cases, the patient should seek to work closely with their physician to determine the possible treatment options. Those suspecting occupational triggers for their asthma might want to consider medications such as these:


How this helps asthma patients is that it increases the speed at which blood flows through the body, enabling oxygen to reach cells faster and thus decreasing the short-term effects of an acute asthma attack.


The reason that this steroid is given to asthmatics is to calm the lining of airways that have been affected by an irritant or atmospheric change.

Unlike adrenaline, hydrocortisone does not provide instantaneous relief from an attack.

Hydrocortisone is best administered to a patient who recognizes pre-attack symptoms, rather than someone already in the midst of a full-blown acute asthma attack.

Corticosteroids are the most effective type of medications used to treat asthma long term. They reduce the swelling and sensitivity of airways within asthmatic patients.  The most common administration method for these medications is inhalation, similar to the administration of fast-acting medications. 

If a patient experiences more than a few mild acute asthma attacks, then treatment by long-term medications is usually recommended by their physician.  They are quite effective in the treatment of chronic asthma that is moderate to severe.

The following is a list of some of the common triggers for asthma that might be in the workplace of an asthmatic:

  • Epoxy dust


Wood dust

Resin in soldering flux


  • Reactive textile dye



Diesel and other strong or bad-smelling fumes are often blamed for acute asthma attacks, however there is little evidence connecting fuel fumes to asthma attacks. This may be the case however, when an asthmatic is allergic to the chemical to which they are being exposed.

If it should be discovered that an occupational related exposure has triggered asthma attacks, then it is imperative to share the information with management and other coworkers. Only then can a dangerous situation be corrected, if necessary. Or, it may provide others who are experiencing health problems that they cannot identify or that their physician is unsure.

In some cases, it is possible to remove the irritant from the workplace. Often chemicals can be removed in favor of different chemicals. The office can be dusted and vacuumed. There is any number of options for removing the trigger from the workplace of the asthma patient.

Unfortunately, years of exposure to an occupational hazard can permanently damage the health of an asthmatic person. The condition will worsen to a point where simply removing the irritant(s) will no longer suffice in eliminating the acute asthma that has worsened from years of repeating the same level of exposure daily.

Overview... Occupational Atmosphere and Asthma

  • Asthma can be caused or triggered by fumes and dust in your work place.
  • If your work environment is dusty or involves working with chemicals, then it is important to be on the look out for the signs of asthma in you or your co-workers and seek immediate medical attention if you believe that you have asthma.
  • Common early warning signs of asthma include fatigue, coughing (especially at night), wheezing, difficulty breathing, tightness in the chest, runny nose, and itchy throat.

Asthma Guide


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