Occupational Lung Diseases (occupational asthma)
Allergic respiratory diseases in the workplace, like occupational asthma (OA), represent a significant public health concern leading to long-term health consequences and socioeconomic costs for the affected worker, employer, and society as a whole. The lungs are particularly vulnerable to contact with these types of exposures due to their extensive surface area, high blood flow, and thin alveolar epithelium. Occupational asthma is the most prevalent occupational lung disease in industrialized countries and since undiagnosed OA can cause considerable medical and economic consequences, aggressive prevention strategies are essential. Despite an increase knowledge of sensitizing agents in the workplace as well as improvements in workplace safety and reporting, OA continues to afflict workers worldwide.
Occupational asthma is caused by inhaling fumes, gases, dust or other potentially harmful substances while “on the job.” Often, your symptoms are worse during the days or nights you work, improve when you have time off and start again when you go back to work. You may have been healthy and this is the first time you’ve had asthma symptoms, or you may have had asthma as a child and it has returned. If you already have asthma, it may be worsened by being exposed to certain substances at work. People with a family history of allergies are more likely to develop occupational asthma, particularly to some substances such as flour, animals and latex. But even if you don’t have a history, you can still develop this disease if you’re exposed to conditions that induce it. Also, if you smoke, you’re at a greater risk for developing asthma.
The allergists at Bernstein Allergy Group can properly diagnose the problem and develop a treatment plan to help you feel better and live better. Once the cause of your symptoms is identified, you and your employer can work together to assure that you avoid exposure to the substance that triggers your asthma symptoms and to high concentrations of irritants.
Occupational Skin Diseases
Allergic and irritant dermatitis (contact dermatitis): patch testing
Contact dermatitis is the most common occupational skin disease. Work-related skin diseases account for approximately 50% of occupational illnesses and are responsible for an estimated 25% of all lost workdays. These dermatoses are often underreported because their association with the workplace is not recognized. In allergic contact dermatitis, even minute exposures to antigenic substances can lead to a skin rash. Common sensitizing agents include nickel and members of the Rhus genus (e.g., poison ivy, poison oak). Severe skin irritants tend to cause immediate red blisters or burns, whereas weaker irritants produce eczematous skin changes over time. An occupational cause should be suspected when rash occurs in areas that are in contact with oil, grease, or other substances. Direct skin testing (patch or scratch) may help to identify a specific trigger. In workers with occupational skin disease, workplace changes and protective measures are important to prevent future exposure.