Asthma that occurs due to or worsens due to exposure to certain substances or chemicals at a workplace is termed as occupational asthma. These substances or chemicals can-
- Cause an allergic reaction, resulting in an allergic asthma
- Cause an irritant reaction or
- Cause a response that leads to an accumulation of histamines or other naturally occurring chemicals in the lungs, precipitating an asthma attack.(1)
Is Occupational Asthma A Serious Condition?
Occupational asthma can turn into a serious condition if not treated on time or left untreated. It can cause serious complications like long term lung damage, severe disability or even death.(2)
Can Occupational Asthma Be Reversed?
Occupational asthma cannot be permanently reversed. Once, you develop a sensitivity to a substance, even miniature amounts of that substance can trigger your asthma symptoms, despite you wearing a mask or respirator. It is of utmost importance to prevent an asthma attack by identifying the triggers and staying away from them. The main aim of the treatment is to thwart symptoms and arrest an asthma attack in progress.
The occupational asthma treatment approach may consist of several medications, along with the primary aim of prevention.
The primary focus of occupational treatment is to avoid any contact with the trigger- substance at work. That said, once you develop a sensitivity to any substance, it is more than likely that even miniature amounts of that substance would trigger your asthma when you get subjected to it. This is possible even if you take precautionary measures like wearing a mask or a respirator.
The treatment focuses on avoiding symptoms and thwarting any asthma attack in progress. Medications may also be a part of a successful treatment plan. Medications are usually the same for all kinds of asthma. Also, the medication prescribed for you would largely depend upon many factors like your age, symptoms, other underlying conditions and the medication you respond best to. The medicines may consist of –
Control Medications (Long-Term) For Occupational Asthma
Corticosteroid Inhalers: These help in decreasing inflammation and do not have much risk of side- effects
Leukotriene Modifiers: These medicines are used in place of corticosteroids
LABAs Or Long-Acting Beta Agonists: These help in opening the airways and also decrease inflammation. These are usually taken along with corticosteroid inhalers
Combination Inhalers: These medicines include a corticosteroid as well as a LABA(3)
Quick-Relief Medications (Short-Acting) For Occupational Asthma
Shot-Acting Beta-Agonists- These medicines help in relieving an ongoing asthma attack
Oral Corticosteroids And Intravenous Corticosteroids: These medicines help in decreasing the inflammation in the airways in case of severe asthma. However, if taken for a long duration, they may lead to serious consequences.(3)
Outlook For Occupational Asthma
Occupational asthma can worsen if it is not treated properly or if it is left untreated. It can cause serious life-threatening complications like perpetual lung damage, serious lung dysfunction or even death. Also, despite the treatment, if you keep getting subjected to the trigger-substance, your asthma may worsen. In such instances, you may need to change your job to avoid exposure to the trigger substance.
If there has been a long exposure, the symptoms may still continue even if the substance is withdrawn and treatment has started.
The general outlook for people with occupational asthma is good. However, the symptoms may continue into further years even after the exposure is removed and a prolonged course of treatment might be needed to maintain the condition.(4)
Occupational asthma, if left untreated or improperly treated, can become a serious condition, that can lead to severe, life-threatening consequences. It cannot be reversed on its own. Treatment must be started to reduce the symptoms and manage the condition. With the help of timely treatment, the condition can be managed, and the quality of life can be improved.
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