When you develop asthma due to exposure to an irritant or an asthma-causing agent at your workplace, it is termed as occupational asthma. Subjection to such an agent can trigger an already existent, but quiescent asthma or it can develop an entirely new one in you. The materials that cause occupational asthma are either called sensitizers or irritants.(1)
What Happens To Untreated Occupational Asthma?
Untreated occupational asthma can become serious and can cause life-threatening complications. It may lead to eternal lung damage, severe disability or even death. the severity of symptoms increases correspondingly with the amount of time you are exposed to an allergen or irritant or any other causative factor. Similarly, the rate of recovery becomes slower and slower the more you are exposed. Some permanent lung alterations can occur due to severe exposure, which is why it is important to keep yourself away from the trigger each time possible. And, in the event that this cannot be done, you need to remove yourself from the contact with the trigger as quickly as possible.(2)
When To Go To A Doctor For Occupational Asthma?
If you start any symptoms of asthma, which are mentioned below, or your already existing asthma worsens, you need to consult your doctor immediately. Serious asthma attacks in many instances can prove to be life-threatening. If you see any of these signs and symptoms, you must consult your doctor immediately –
- Shortness of breath or breathlessness or wheeze which seems to be rapidly increasing
- Short-acting bronchodilators don’t seem to work
- If you feel breathless with even a little amount of activity
If there is coughing, breathlessness, wheezing, etc. you need to see your doctor immediately. Problems in respiration could be suggestive of asthma. Keep an eye out especially for signs and symptoms that seem to be worsening over time or get exacerbated due to particular triggers.(2)
Occupational asthma causes signs and symptoms much like any other type of asthma. These may consist of-
- Wheezing occasionally only at night
- Breathlessness or shortness of breath
- Tightness in the chest
There may also be some other signs and symptoms, like-
- Runny nose
- Congestion in the nasal passage
- Irritation of the eyes or occurrence of tears every so often(2)
The symptoms of occupational asthma depend greatly upon what substance you are subjected to, for how long you were exposed and how often do you get exposed to the substance. According to these, there may be changes in your symptoms, like-
- Your symptoms may worsen as you start your week at the work, fade away as you take your weekends off or while you are away on a vacation and return when you re-join your work
- Occasionally, your symptoms might also occur when you are away from your workplace
- Sometimes, your symptoms may also begin immediately after you are subjected to the trigger-substance at work. Sometimes, they just develop when you are regularly subjected to the substance and not otherwise
- Your symptoms may also go on even after the exposure to the trigger-substance is reduced or removed. The duration of your exposure to the trigger-symptoms will most probably decide how long-lasting or perpetual your asthma symptoms are going to be.(2)
Occupational asthma is a type of lung disorder. This condition needs prompt and efficient management. If left untreated or improperly treated, it may lead to many serious and life-threatening complications like perpetual lung failure, lung dysfunction or even death. if you see any of the signs and symptoms of asthma mentioned here, it is important that you see your doctor immediately, to rule out any possible chances of developing occupational asthma or to confirm the diagnosis and manage your condition accordingly, as a delay in treatment can prove to be fatal.
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