Few studies have addressed the exacerbation of asthma by workplace exposures. As part of a population-based study of asthma in five hospital service areas in Maine, subjects completed a telephone questionnaire There were 490 adult participants (aged 18 to 65 years) who were employed within the past year. A total of 80 (16.3%) were identified as asthma cases, including 45 (9.2%) with physician-diagnosed asthma and another 35 (7.1%) with undiagnosed asthma who were identified by responding affirmatively to at least 4 of 9 questions that asked about cough, wheeze, chest. tightness, and difficulty breathing Of the 80 asthmatic subjects, 17 (21.3%) reported that their coughing or wheezing was worse at work, including 7 of the diagnosed cases (15.6%) and 10 of the undiagnosed cases (28.6%). Asthmatics with workplace exacerbation were similar to other asthmatics with respect to gender, smoking, marital status, and education level. However, the work-exacerbated asthmatics were somewhat older and had worked longer in industries designated a priori to be at high risk for asthma. When a report of coughing or wheezing worse at work was modeled 'for asthmatics using logistic regression, and controlling for age, gender, and smoking, an elevated odds ratio was observed for subjects who had worked over 8 years in a high-risk industry (OR=5.7, 95% CI 1.1-30.4, p=0.04) Other analyses limited to the physician-diagnosed cases suggested that work-exacerbated asthmatics required more medical are and were more limited in daily activities, but the small number of subjects precluded firm conclusions. These findings suggest that the exacerbation of asthma by workplace exposures is common and might have serious consequences.
Breathing; Lung; Lung-disorders; Lung-irritants; Pulmonary-disorders; Pulmonary-function; Pulmonary-system; Pulmonary-system-disorders; Questionnaires; Workplace-monitoring; Workplace-studies; Worker-health; Work-environment; Risk-analysis; Risk-factors; Respiratory-system-disorders; Bronchial-asthma