Occupational asthma is a disease associated with inflammation and obstruction of the airways that develops under the influence of occupational factors. In this condition, the patient experiences an attack of suffocation, cough, shortness of breath, breathing becomes wheezing. 

Diagnostics includes provocative tests, samples. It is necessary to establish a connection between the patient’s professional activity and the manifested symptoms of asthma.

Prevention of human contact with the allergen is important for the effectiveness of treatment. Medical therapy, physiotherapy procedures are used.

Occupational bronchial asthma

Occupational bronchial asthma is a medical condition that is diagnosed by detecting an allergen associated with work.

When establishing a diagnosis, it is important to establish the absence of clinical symptoms before a person starts working at a particular workplace.

The symptoms of occupational asthma begin to appear after several years of constant contact with the allergen. With a combination of several provoking factors, the clinical picture is aggravated, diagnosis and treatment of the disease becomes difficult.

The reasons for the development of the disease and the risk group

The main reason for the development of occupational bronchial asthma is the impact on the body of an industrial allergen.

More often this disease is diagnosed in representatives of blue-collar occupations whose activities are related to the chemical and food industries. Agricultural workers and people in the medical industry are more likely to develop asthmatic symptoms.

Currently, more than three hundred types of specific allergens are known that can provoke the development of asthma. These are not only harmful chemical compounds containing hazardous components.

Any substances in the surrounding air can cause inflammation in the bronchi. Livestock breeders, veterinarians often suffer from asthma caused by allergens such as wool, feathers, down of animals and birds, various combined feeds.

Those who are engaged in textile and food production may experience a reaction of the body in the form of attacks of suffocation and coughing to substances contained in the fibers of silk, linen, cotton fabrics, in flour and grain dust, and seeds. The low molecular weight compounds in wood dust can trigger asthma in people who handle wood.

The development of persistent respiratory allergies and the development of bronchial asthma are observed in people whose profession is associated with the use of paints, varnishes, glue, and solvents. At risk are also employees of hairdressers and beauty salons, people involved in fishing.  

Main groups

All the variety of reasons contributing to the development of bronchial asthma caused by the profession can be divided into several groups:

Other factors can aggravate the course of the disease:

  • nervous overstrain;
  • intoxication of the body due to contact with harmful substances;
  • physical fatigue;
  • poor ecology of the place of residence;
  • medications.

The complex effect of external stimuli and professional features of human activity can enhance the manifestation of symptoms.


Clinical manifestations of occupational bronchial asthma have common features with other types of this disease, when the provoking factor is not associated with the patient’s professional activity.

For a long time, bronchial asthma can proceed without pronounced symptoms. This is especially true of the professional type of the disease, in which contact with an allergen can last for a long time.

Before the onset of an attack – the main symptom of asthma – the patient’s condition worsens. The first symptoms appear, foreshadowing the development of suffocation. Shortness of breath appears, breathing becomes hard and intermittent.  

Exhaling air, the person experiences minor chest pain. Every exhalation is accompanied by wheezing. A cough with little sputum production may appear. With physical exertion, it becomes harder for the patient to breathe.

Exposure to the allergen and the subsequent development of an asthma attack is also accompanied by the appearance of itching – the nose and eyes itch. The patient complains of lacrimation and burning in the eyes, a runny nose. Work quickly gets tired, there is no way to focus on the right moments. As a result, the ability to work is reduced or the performance of duties becomes impossible.  

These manifestations are often overlooked, especially when the disease is at an early stage of development. The state of fatigue and malaise is associated with overvoltage that occurs during work.

Occupational asthma manifests itself as constant symptoms – asthma attacks, coughing with viscous sputum. More often, an asthmatic attack manifests itself during work, when contact with an allergen occurs.

It can also occur after interaction with an irritating substance, when the harmful component has already entered the body. The feeling of suffocation is accompanied by shortness of breath, which requires a change in the patient’s posture.

He sits down, rests on his hands. Breathing becomes wheezing, the skin turns pale, the heart rate increases. Viscous sputum is released.

With severe asthma, signs of concomitant diseases are added to its typical manifestations: bronchitis, emphysema of the lungs and other pathologies.

The intensity of the manifestations of the symptoms of occupational asthma is associated with the degree of severity diagnosed in each case.


In medical practice, there are several degrees of severity of asthma associated with a person’s professional activity:

  • Periodic ( intermittent ).

Characterized by temporary exacerbations that do not last long and have a frequency of no more than 1 time in 7 days. Moderately pronounced symptoms that can be stopped with drugs.

  • Persistent ( persistent ) light flow.

Attacks occur mainly during the daytime, several times a week.

  • Persistent, moderate.

Symptoms bother every day. Appear at any time of the day, often disturb night sleep. Attacks occur even with little physical exertion.

  • Persistent, severe.

Manifestations are constantly disturbing. Their number increases at night. Sleep is disturbed, a person suffocates while lying down. The patient’s quality of life is deteriorating.

A distinctive feature of occupational asthma is the sudden onset of an attack. At the same time, usually nothing portends a deterioration in the condition. The patient feels normal.

This is the initial stage of the development of the disease, at which the attack can be stopped by taking the appropriate drug. Therefore, asthmatics should always have the right drug on hand. Contact of the patient with an industrial allergen should be stopped immediately.

Occupational asthma is reversible. If you change the place of work and exclude the influence of the provoking factor, then the symptoms of asthma may not bother the person.

Even a short absence of contact with an industrial allergen, for example, while on vacation, significantly improves the patient’s condition and well-being.


For an accurate diagnosis, a comprehensive examination is necessary. If occupational asthma is suspected, the patient is referred for laboratory examination of blood, sputum, and chest x-ray.

To establish or refute the connection of spasms in the bronchi with industrial activity, an inhalation test with an industrial allergen is performed.

Based on the data of the anamnesis and the results of the examination, an accurate diagnosis is established and the appropriate treatment is prescribed.

Treatment of occupational bronchial asthma

Treatment of occupational bronchial asthma is complex. It is prescribed based on the symptoms and severity of the disease.

It is important that the person stops contact with the allergen during treatment. Occupational asthma is treated in several stages. At the same time, special attention is paid to the individual characteristics of the organism, and the patient’s age is also taken into account.

The main goal of therapy for asthma is to control symptoms, stop attacks on time, and reduce the likelihood of consequences and complications.

Complex therapy includes taking medications, special exercises to improve respiratory function, physiotherapy.

After diagnosing the disease and a series of studies to determine the type of allergen, medications are prescribed. The main drugs for asthma are:

  • Glucocorticosteroids .

This group includes anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic drugs . They reduce the swelling of the bronchial mucosa, suppress asthmatic manifestations. The use of drugs may be contraindicated in tuberculosis and fungal infections. A contraindication is also the presence of status asthma and prolonged attacks. 

  • Mucolytic and expectorant drugs .

Promote the liquefaction and discharge of phlegm. Protect the respiratory tract from the penetration of pathogenic microorganisms. The work of the ciliated epithelium improves.

The effect is noticeable after 5 days of using the drug. The minimum of side effects makes this group of drugs popular with asthmatics.

  • Antileukotriene drugs.

Modern medicines of bronchodilatory action.

They prevent night and daytime seizures, relieve spasms. There are side effects in the form of headaches and digestive disorders.

  • Beta2-adrenergic agonists.

Bronchodilator drugs . They improve the discharge of sputum and the work of the ciliated epithelium of the bronchial tissue, allow you to get rid of spasms and stop seizures.

Features in treatment and additional procedures

The use of medicines requires prior consultation with a doctor. Self-assignment is not allowed.

Before taking the drug, you must read the instructions to find out about contraindications and side effects. Even the most modern drug can be prohibited if you are allergic to its constituent components.

Physiotherapy treatments are used during periods of remission when the patient is not bothered by seizures. Treatment is aimed at preventing exacerbations and complications. The following procedures apply:

  1. Special breathing exercises – improves gas exchange, eliminates spasms and oxygen starvation. It is carried out in several ways. Prior agreement with the doctor is required.
  2. Magnetotherapy – improves the patency of the bronchi, increases immunity, and normalizes breathing.
  3. Barotherapy – improves vascular function, removes toxic substances from the lungs.
  4. Phonophoresis – stimulates the drainage function of the bronchi.
  5. Climatotherapy. Prolonged stay in an area with a sea or mountain climate can significantly reduce the frequency of attacks.

In some cases, at the end of treatment, it is necessary to change the patient’s working conditions. In severe occupational asthma, a complete rejection of certain activities is required. With mild asthma, the patient needs gentle working conditions.

Occupational bronchial asthma and disability

The examination of the working capacity is carried out by a doctor who specializes in diseases related to professional activities. A commission is appointed to assess the impact of working conditions on human health.

Its activities are aimed at establishing the factors that have caused the violation of a person’s ability to perform work duties due to health conditions.

During the examination, the following factors are taken into account:

  • the sanitary condition of the patient’s workplace. It is assessed by the sanitary doctor of the organization where the patient works, or a specialist is appointed by the inspection commission;
  • the type of allergen and its presence at the given place of work;
  • work experience of the patient. It is important to find out how long the patient has been in contact with potential allergens;
  • the way the allergen is exposed to humans.

When diagnosing occupational bronchial asthma, it is necessary to differentiate its symptoms from other diseases of a bacterial and viral nature.

If, as a result of the commission’s work, the professional nature of asthmatic manifestations is established, the question of whether the patient can remain at this place of work will be considered.

The patient can be completely removed from his work duties, which is associated with the exclusion of contact with the allergen. In some cases, a transfer to more benign working conditions is sufficient.

Preventive measures

A person suffering from occupational bronchial asthma must comply with preventive measures. By following the doctor’s recommendations at the workplace, complications can be avoided.

Overalls, mask, respirator and other protective equipment that are required for safety must always be used during work.

Compliance with hygiene, sanitary standards is a prerequisite for the prevention of disease.

When working in hazardous industries, you must undergo a medical examination twice a year.

If a person, after completing a course of treatment, again enters an environment containing allergens, there is a high probability of an exacerbation of the disease and the development of complications.