conditions at work is called work-exacerbated asthma, Tarlo shares.
“Work-exacerbated asthma is much more common,” she says. “We’ve seen a decline in occupational asthma over time, but work-exacerbated asthma has continued to be common.”
A wide array of jobs potentially bring people into contact with these triggers, Mazurek notes. These include positions in industrial plants, metal machine shops, welding shops, hospitals and laboratories, woodworking and furniture-making shops, and hair and nail salons.
Even department store staffers are at risk for work-related asthma, thanks to the perfume counter, says Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonary specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
“They’re spraying samples of perfume at you in department stores, and that’s definitely a chemical irritant,” Horovitz adds.
House cleaners and maid services also carry a certain risk of work-related asthma, because of the dust in houses and the cleaning solutions they use, he adds.
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If you’re suffering from work-related asthma, what’s the solution?
In extreme cases, you might have to look for a new gig, Mazurek says.
“For some patients with work-related asthma, it may be necessary for clinicians to remove or restrict the patient from direct or indirect contact with exposure in the workplace,” he says.
Horovitz thinks that’s impractical for most people.
“Jobs aren’t that easy to find these days,” he adds. “If the job is satisfactory for you, you should try to minimize your exposure to triggers in the workplace.”
You can try wearing a protective breathing mask when the job will expose you to triggers, and talk with your employers about improving ventilation in the workspace, Horovitz suggests.
It also might help your work-related asthma if you reduce the triggers in your home, he adds. For example, you can pull up dust-laden carpeting and replace it with linoleum or tile, which is easier to keep allergen-free.
For more on asthma, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.