The interesting thing about asthma is that it can be both environmental or genetic. For the purposes of workers’ compensation, a person can seek workers’ compensation if their asthma is worsened by exposure to chemicals or other substances in the workplace or if they develop asthma as a result of exposure.
Occupational asthma is a real problem for many workers. According to the United States Department of Labor and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, over two million people are estimated to have work-related asthma. This condition is known by several names including:
- Work-related asthma
- Asthma caused by work
- Work-exacerbated asthma
- Asthma aggravated by work
Employers should take steps to minimize the risk of employees developing work-related asthma or exacerbations of asthma symptoms. Some options to do so include transitioning to safer chemicals in the workplace, understanding how to identify asthma risks, controlling dust and powders in the workplace and others.
What can you do to prevent occupational asthma?
If you want to prevent occupational asthma, you need to know the substances you’ll be around and your own health condition. If you already have asthma, you should take your medications on your normal schedule and opt to wear personal protective gear to help minimize exposure, such as wearing an N95 mask or other particulate filter.
Avoiding occupational triggers is essential for anyone who develops occupational asthma. If those triggers cannot be avoided, there is a real risk that occupational asthma could lead to permanent lung damage, disability or death.
What are the symptoms of occupational asthma?
Occupational asthma symptoms include:
- Chest tightness
- Shortness of breath
In a severe attack, it’s possible for a person’s lips and extremities to start turning blue due to cyanosis. If anyone has these signs of occupational asthma, they should receive treatment immediately. If treatment with emergency medications doesn’t work, or if that kind of treatment is unavailable in the workplace, call 911 to seek care. Occupational asthma can normally be treated, but it’s better to treat it when it’s mild than to wait for an exacerbation and attack. After they get treatment, they may be able to pursue workers’ compensation to cover their financial losses and any ongoing medical care they’ll need.