Study objectives: The purpose of this study was to determine whether respiratory therapists (RTs) had an elevated risk of respiratory symptoms and to determine the association of work exposures with symptoms.
Methods: Mailed questionnaire responses from 275 RTs working in British Columbia, Canada, were compared to those of 628 physiotherapists who had been surveyed previously. Analyses incorporated logistic regression analysis with adjustment for age, sex, smoking status, and childhood asthma.
Results: Compared to physiotherapists, RTs had over twice the risk of being woken by dyspnea, having wheeze, asthma attacks, and asthma diagnosed after entering the profession. Among RTs, two work factors associated with asthma were sterilizing instruments with glutaraldehyde-based solutions and the use of aerosolized ribavirin. RTs who used an oxygen tent or hood had the highest risk of asthma diagnosed after entering the profession (odds ratio [OR], 8.3; 95% confidence interval [CI], 12.6 to 26.0) and of asthma attacks in the last 12 months (OR, 3.6; 95% CI, 1.2 to 10.9).
Conclusions: Our data suggest that RTs may be at an increased risk for asthma-like symptoms and for receiving a diagnosis of asthma since starting to work in their profession, possibly related to exposure to glutaraldehyde and aerosolized ribavirin.