Purpose of review: To summarize recent findings on work-exacerbated asthma, based on medical literature published during 2005 and the first 10 months of 2006. Recent findings: Although prevalence estimates varied considerably among six recent epidemiologic studies, collectively they contribute to the conclusion that work-exacerbated asthma is common. Median work-exacerbated asthma prevalence estimates were 18% of adults with asthma, 25% of working adults with asthma and 45% of all work-related asthma cases. Work-exacerbated asthma can result from a variety of occupational triggers, including physical factors (e.g. extreme temperatures, exercise), behavioral states (e.g. strong emotions, stress), odors (e.g. perfume), general irritants and dust, and second-hand cigarette smoke. Work-exacerbated asthma cases have many of the same demographic and clinical traits as other adults with asthma and occupational asthma cases, although some differences have been reported. Recent review articles have offered some recommendations on the management of work-exacerbated asthma, but more comprehensive advice is anticipated from a professional medical society in the next few years. Summary: Epidemiologic studies indicate that work-exacerbated asthma is common. Researchers have started to pay attention to work-exacerbated asthma, but more studies are needed on all aspects of this condition in order to improve diagnosis, management and prevention.
Paul K. Henneberger, ScD, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Division of Respiratory Disease Studies, MS H2800, 1095 Willowdale Road, Morgantown, WV 26505-2888