Occupational asthma

Medical Specialties: Emergency medicine, Internal medicine, Pulmonology

Clinical Definition

Occupational asthma is an obstructive lung disease caused by inhalation of specific agents in the workplace. Individuals with occupational asthma may have airway hyperresponsiveness or limited airflow due to constriction. Occupational asthma may be classified as immunoglobulin E (IgE) reaction asthma, which triggers an immune response. Asthma symptoms develop after a latency period. The second classification of occupational asthma is irritant-induced asthma, in which a workplace agent irritates the bronchi-causing symptoms without a latency period.  

In Our Own Words

Occupational asthma is a lung condition that causes narrowing and inflammation in the airways due to breathing in a workplace substance (e.g., dust or chemical fumes). Occupational asthma usually occurs in one of two ways. In some instances, breathing in a chemical or substance will cause the immune system to respond with asthma symptoms days or weeks after breathing in the substance. The other type of occupational asthma involves breathing in a chemical or substance and causing immediate irritation to the lungs.

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  • Cleveland Clinic. “Occupational Asthma.” http://www.clevelandclinicmeded.com/medicalpubs/diseasemanagement/allergy/occupational-asthma/#top. Accessed September 2013.
  • American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. Occupational Asthma: Tips to Remember. http://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/library/at-a-glance/occupational-asthma.aspx. Accessed September 2013.
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