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Diagnosing work-related asthma.

Bonauto D; Curwick C; Brodkin CA; Beckett W; Shusterman D
Olympia, WA: Washington State Department of Labor and Industries, 64-1-2006, 2006 Mar; :1-18
Work-related asthma is the most commonly reported occupational lung disease in the United States {Petsonk, 2002}. Occupational exposures can trigger asthma exacerbations in asthmatic workers or induce asthma in a previously healthy worker. Approximately 7.5% of all US adults have a diagnosis of asthma {CDC, 2002}. In the US, there are an estimated 14.6 million work absence days due to asthma annually {Mannino et. al., 2002}. Of adults with incident asthma, an estimated 15% is attributable to workplace exposures {Blanc, 1999}. Work-related asthma is often under recognized and misdiagnosed {Rosenman, 1997}. Present practice often lacks the rigorous objective medical testing necessary to diagnose asthma and to document its relationship to the workplace {Rosenman, 1997}. Medical history and physical exam lack both the sensitivity and specificity of diagnostic tests for occupational asthma {Malo, 1991}, necessitating the use of objective testing for diagnosis. Delayed diagnosis can lead to a worsened prognosis {Paggiaro, 1994}. Improvements in both diagnosis and management benefits the worker and employer such that years of productive work are not lost and any potential medical, legal or compensation issues are clarified. This continuing medical education exercise will provide an overview of work-related asthma with an emphasis on the use of objective tests for the diagnosis of asthma in the workplace. The reader is referred to materials advising on the work-up, evaluation and management of non-occupational asthma {NIH, 1997}, occupational respiratory diseases {Beckett, 2000} and more extensive discussions of workplace asthma {Bernstein, 1999; Chan-Yeung, 1995; Chan-Yeung and Malo, 1995}.
Injuries; Injury-prevention; Workers; Work-environment; Humans; Men; Women; Bronchial-asthma; Lung; Lung-disease; Pulmonary-function; Pulmonary-system; Pulmonary-system-disorders; Respiratory-system-disorders; Respiration; Chemical-properties; Dusts; Dust-exposure; Exposure-levels; Risk-factors; Animals; Insects; Grain-dusts; Cleaning-compounds; Agricultural-workers; Agricultural-chemicals; Agricultural-products; Respirators; Training; Education; Ventilation; Face-masks; Smoke-inhalation
SHARP Program, Washington State Department of Labor and Industries, PO Box 44330, Olympia, WA 98504-4330
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Cooperative Agreement
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Diagnosing work-related asthma
Performing Organization
Washington State Department of Labor and Industries
Page last reviewed: April 8, 2022
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division