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HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU HAVE WORK-RELATED ASTHMA?
You can suspect that your work may be causing your asthma symptoms if you answer "yes" to more than one of the following questions:
Programs & Workshops
Healthcare Provider eModule
Work-Related Asthma Resources
Investigate the Canadian Lung Association worker education program: Do I have WRA?
Work-related asthma is the most common occupational lung disease in Canada. There are two main types:
- Occupational Asthma
- Work-Exacerbated Asthma
Sensitizer-Induced Occupational Asthma is caused by a substance in the workplace to which an allergic reaction occurs. There are over 300 substances in the workplace known to cause occupational asthma. This includes wood dust at sawmills, chemical fumes in the plastics industry, flour in a bake shop or paint ingredients like isocyanates.
Irritant-Induced Occupational Asthma is caused by an irritant (not an allergen) in the workplace. It is caused by an exposure to an irritant – a gas, vapour, fume or smoke. It can be from a lower level exposure repeated over several days or weeks. When it is caused by a single high-level exposure, it is called reactive airways dysfunction syndrome (RADS).
Some people who already have asthma can have their condition worsened or aggravated by a certain exposure at work. This is called "work-exacerbated asthma". If you are one of the 2.5 million Canadians with asthma, you need to be aware of the air quality in your workplace environment; it is just as important to your health as your home environment. It is important to determine what your asthma triggers are, and take measures to reduce or eliminate exposure to them. Although it is often not possible to get rid of all your asthma triggers, the more you can do the better off you’ll be.
WHAT DO YOU DO FOR A LIVING?
Deciding on which career is right for you?
Prevention is the most important goal. Work with your employer to come up with solutions to help control your asthma. This may involve moving to a different area within your workplace, improving ventilation, or the use of personal protective equipment. After speaking with your doctor, take any prescribed medications and take action to avoid your asthma triggers.
Resources for occupational fields associated with a higher risk of asthma:
Hair, nail & beauty salons - booklet
Hair, nail & beauty salons - brochure
Autoworkers, Plastics (isocyanates)
Metals & metal-working fluids (metals)
Higher risk industries
Poultry, swine and livestock (animal allergens)
Cattle, dairy & large animal (animal allergens)
Grain & non-row crop workers
Landscaping, mushroom & greenhouse workers
Baking (flour dust)
Health care professionals (latex, drugs, formaldehyde, glutaraldehyde)
Janitors, cleaning industry (cleaning products)
What You Can Do
Whether it’s "work-exacerbated asthma" or "occupational asthma", it is important to get it under control as soon as possible. Asthma control involves reducing or eliminating your exposure to the offending agent, and you also may require regular asthma medications. Other than this step, the treatment of work-related asthma is the same as the treatment of any asthma as outlined in the Managing Your Asthma section. As with anyone with asthma, it is important to have a written Asthma Action Plan from your doctor to help you take better control and reduce the chance of asthma attacks.Take the following steps:
Visit your family physician, who can send you for asthma breathing tests (called Spirometry) that measure your lung function. Although the 1998 "Canadian Thoracic Society Guidelines for Occupational Asthma" is written for health care professionals, you might find it useful to read. http://www.respiratoryguidelines.ca/CTS-occupational-asthma-1998