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Understanding ‘occupational asthma’

On Behalf of | Dec 23, 2020 | Workers' Compensation |

It’s common for workers in some professions to develop what’s known as “occupational asthma.” People who work around substances as varied as wood or grain dust, chemicals, fungi and animal dander can develop asthma.

Asthma, which causes the airways in the lungs to become narrow and swollen, makes it difficult to take in air. This can lead to shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing and tightness in the chest. If a person’s asthma is caused by their work environment, these symptoms typically get worse as their workweek goes and subside on their days off. That’s because they aren’t around the substances that trigger an asthma attack.

Who’s most likely to suffer from occupational asthma?

Among people most likely to develop occupational asthma are:

  • Bakers
  • Grain elevator workers
  • Farmers
  • Lab workers (particularly those who work with animals)
  • Metal workers
  • Millers
  • Woodworkers

People who work in factories where drugs, detergents or plastics are manufactured are also at higher risk than many other types of workers. Of course, if you work around any type of substance that that’s a trigger for you, you could develop occupational asthma.

What are your options if you develop occupational asthma?

Most people can’t just change jobs, let alone occupations. However, you may be able to move to a different part of a facility to be less exposed to the triggering substance. A more practical option may be to get a respiratory device – perhaps even a mask – that can limit your exposure.

Fortunately, asthma can be treated. However, you need a proper diagnosis and medical care. If your asthma is the result of your job, you should be able to receive workers’ compensation benefits to cover your medical expenses and any necessary time off work.

Proving that your asthma is work-related can sometimes be a challenge. If you’re having difficulty getting the workers’ comp benefits you need, an experienced attorney may be able to help you.