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Occupational Asthma: Review of Assessment, Treatment, and Compensation

Clayton T. Cowl, MD, FCCP
Author and Funding Information

From the Division of Preventive, Occupational, and Aerospace Medicine, and Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine; Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

Correspondence to: Clayton T. Cowl, MD, FCCP, Division of Preventive, Occupational, and Aerospace Medicine, Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Baldwin 5A, 200 First St SW, Rochester, MN 55905; e-mail: cowl.clayton@mayo.edu


Reproduction of this article is prohibited without written permission from the American College of Chest Physicians (http://www.chestpubs.org/site/misc/reprints.xhtml).


© 2011 American College of Chest Physicians


Chest. 2011;139(3):674-681. doi:10.1378/chest.10-0079
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Occupational asthma refers to asthma induced by exposure in the working environment to airborne dusts, vapors, or fumes, with or without preexisting asthma. Potential triggers of occupational asthma are diverse and involve a variety of postulated mechanisms. After confirming the presence of asthma, diagnosis hinges on obtaining a detailed and accurate occupational and environmental history and documenting a temporal association of symptoms or signs with workplace exposure. Management of occupational asthma centers on prescribing standard asthma therapies in conjunction with instituting preventive strategies, such as appropriate avoidance of environmental triggers, providing work restrictions, and using environmental controls and /or personal respiratory protection. If a worker is determined to be ill or injured, there are a variety of compensation systems that are designed to protect workers financially from disability related to respiratory impairments; however, the administrative process is frequently difficult to navigate for patients and their providers. Focusing on obtaining a detailed occupational and environmental history, establishing clear objective data to substantiate illness, and estimating or apportioning workplace contribution to the condition is important for the diagnosis and treatment of this relatively common form of asthma.


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