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AAAAI: Asthma on the Job
Date:10/3/2007

MILWAUKEE, Oct. 3 /PRNewswire/ -- Could you actually be allergic to work? If you experience symptoms of allergies or asthma in the workplace, you may suffer from occupational asthma. This disorder is defined as reversible airflow obstruction caused by inhaling allergens, chemicals, fumes, gases, dusts or other potentially harmful substances while "on the job," according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI).

"We estimate that about 15%, or 1 in 7, of adult cases of asthma are caused by the workplace. Occupational asthma accounts for 24.5 million missed workdays for adults each year in the United States," said Karin A. Pacheco, MD, MSPH, FAAAAI, and Chair of the AAAAI's Occupational Diseases Committee. "One of the difficulties in diagnosing occupational asthma is that the symptoms are the same as non-occupational asthma -- wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, difficulty exercising and cough. Similar to non-occupational asthma, runny nose, nasal congestion and eye irritation may accompany chest symptoms. The trained physician must first consider an occupational cause, and then look for clues in the patient's history, or the diagnosis will be missed," Pacheco added.

For example, physicians should consider the following questions: Do asthma symptoms worsen during the workweek and improve on the weekends? Did asthma symptoms begin after starting a new job or work practice? Is the patient exposed to products or chemicals known to cause asthma? "Making the connection to the workplace is vital," said Pacheco, "because it offers the best chance of cure by removal from exposure, and may also help prevent disease in other exposed workers."

Are You at Risk?

With occupational asthma, symptoms of asthma may develop for the first time in a previously healthy worker, or childhood asthma that had previously cleared may recur due to new exposure. In some cases, a previous personal or family history of allergies will
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SOURCE American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology
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