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Work Related Asthma

What is work related asthma?

Work related asthma is also known as occupational asthma. It is reversible blockage of airway which is caused or triggered by agent present at the workplace. There is a relationship between workplace exposure to agent and asthma attack.


Diagram of bronchocontriction during an asthmatic attack

What type of workers are at risk of developing work related asthma?

Examples of high risk workers are those who are exposed to the follow during work:

  • Dust mites, mould, pollen
  • Chemical vapour, fumes, mist
  • Vegetable dust
  • Metal dust
  • Wood dust

What are the symptoms of work related asthma?

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Cough
  • Wheezing
  • Chest tightness
  • Symptoms are worst at work
  • Symptoms increase progressively over the working week
  • Symptoms improve when away from work
  • Symptoms improve following a change in the work environment

How can I prevent asthma attack?

  • Try to identify the agent which you think might trigger the asthma attack
  • Avoid exposure to the agent which trigger the asthma attack
  • Use personal protective equipment to prevent inhalation of agent. Examples are face mask, respirator
  • Take asthma medications as directed by doctor
  • Seek early medical advise if you think you suffer from work related asthma.
  • Report to employer about the disease so that suitable control measures can be taken to improve the working environment.
  • Stop smoking

How to know whether I have work related asthma?

  • Explain your symptoms to doctor and its relationship with work.
  • Keep a diary of symptoms
  • Undergo specific test to measure your lung function such as Peak Flow Monitoring and Spirometry Test
  • Chest X-Ray

What is the treatment for work related asthma?

Two main treatment:

  • Medication – to improve the airway blockage (quick relief medication) and long term control (prevent further asthma attack).
  • Avoid exposure to agent at workplace which trigger the asthma attack by:
    • Removing the agent at workplace through control of agent at workplace
    • Using personal protective equipment
    • Working in a new workplace


Asthmatic worker using inhaler medication

Notification

According to Occupational Safety and Health (Notification of Accident, Dangerous Occurrence, Poisoning and Occupational Diseases) Regulation 2004, it is the responsibilities of :

  • Employer
  • Attending medical practitioner

To notify occupational diseases to Department of Occupational Safety and Health.

Contact address

For further information, please e-mail to: ohealth@dph.gov.my

Last Reviewed : 26 April 2012
Writer : Dr. Sirajuddin Hashim
: Dr. Nor’Aishah Abu Bakar
: Dr. Abu Hassan Shaari Abd Kadir
Reviewer : Dr. Norhaya Mohd Razali
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