Occupational asthma is caused by breathing in chemicals, vapors, gases, dust or other harmful or irritating substances while at work. Occupational asthma’s symptoms may the same as other types of asthma, but unlike other forms of asthma, if treated early, occupational asthma can be reversed. The only way it may be possible to reverse its effects is to eliminate your exposure to the substance causing the asthma – The longer you’re exposed, the more likely you are to have permanent symptoms.

How can you tell if your symptoms are likely due to occupational asthma? Your symptoms may vary depending on the substance causing them and your length of exposure, but some possible signs of occupational asthma are:

  • Symptoms get worse as your work week continues and get better during extended periods of time away from the office
  • Symptoms will start to occur as soon as you’re exposed to the substance causing the asthma

Possible causes of occupational asthma are:

  • Chemicals – those used to make paints, varnished, adhesives, laminates, resins, insulation, packaging materials and more.
  • Animal substances – Dander, fur, hair, etc.
  • Enzymes – Used in detergents
  • Metals – Platinum, chromium and nickel sulfate
  • Plant substances – Rubber latex, flour, flax, wheat, etc.
  • Other lung irritants – Smoke, chlorine, sulfur dioxide, wood dust and more

If you are experiencing asthma symptoms, such as wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath or chest tightness, speak with your doctor. Seek immediate help if your symptoms become worse. If you suspect your symptoms could be occupational asthma, it would be helpful for your doctor if you brought a list of possible lung irritants at your workplace.