The Asthma Center

Occupational Asthma

Occupational asthma is a special case of asthma triggered by an irritant or allergen found in the workplace. The incidence of occupational asthma in the workplace is estimated to be about 2%. Examples of asthma-triggering factors in work environments include:

  • Animals (cats, dogs, mice, rats, rabbits, guinea pigs, horses, birds): lab workers, veterinarians, pet shop and zoo workers
  • Pollen: farmers, gardeners, landscapers, outdoor and field workers
  • Fish: food handlers, fishermen
  • Dust and mold: janitors, housekeepers, tradesmen
  • Cigarette smoke: office workers, casino workers, bartenders
  • Chemicals: factory workers, workers in "tight buildings"
  • Exhaust fumes: auto mechanics
  • Chalk dust: teachers
  • Latex: healthcare workers or outdoor workers in urban areas

You may notice that your symptoms are much milder or resolve on your days off from work. Using a protective mask at work, improving ventilation and introducing an air cleaning system, as well as treatment with asthma medications, all may improve asthma symptoms in a major way at work. Of course, the ultimate solution when all else fails is to consider a change of job or profession.