Occupational asthma is often a reversible condition, which means the symptoms may disappear when the irritants that caused the asthma are avoided. However, permanent damage can result if the person experiences prolonged exposure. Examples of workplace or environmental irritants include: dusts, gases, pollutants, fumes and vapors.
Occupational or environmental asthma symptoms
Occupational asthma often begins with a cough or other asthma symptoms, such as wheezing, shortness of breath, runny nose, nasal congestion, eye irritation and chest tightness, which may occur during exposure to the irritant(s) at work. Sometimes, occupational asthma symptoms do not appear until several hours after the exposure, even while at home after work. At the onset of the disease, symptoms may subside during weekends and vacations, but exposure to an occupational irritant can cause asthma within 24 hours. However, during later stages of occupational asthma, asthma symptoms may begin occurring during exposure to other more common asthma triggers, such as smoke, dust and temperature changes.
Occupational or environmental asthma causes
The cause can be allergic or nonallergic in nature. Although new substances are developed every day that may cause occupational asthma, some known airborne irritants in the workplace include:
- Chemical dusts and vapors
- Animal substances
- Organic dusts
- Cotton, flax and hemp dust
- Metal fumes or dust
- Chemical fumes
- Air pollutants