What is occupational asthma?Occupational asthma is a form of lung disease in which the breathing passages shrink, swell, or become inflamed or
congested as a result of exposure to irritants in the workplace. Occupational asthma is a lung disorder characterized by attacks of breathing difficulty, wheezing, prolonged exhalation, and cough, which is caused by various agents found in the work place. These symptoms are usually due to spasms of the muscles lining the airways, which cause them to narrow excessively.
Occupational asthma is defined as variable air flow limitation caused by a specific agent in the workplace. Hundreds of different types of jobs involve exposure to substances that could trigger occupational asthma, but only a small fraction of people who do such work develop this disorder. Occupational asthma is most apt to affect workers who have personal or family histories of allergies or asthma, or who are often required to handle or breathe dust or fumes created by especially irritating material. Occupational asthma is usually reversible, but permanent lung damage can occur if exposure continues to the substance that causes the disease. In highly sensitive persons, even very low levels of exposure may provoke an episode.