The Asthma Center

Does my job make my asthma worse?

If your work environment exposes you to substances to which you are allergic or that irritate your bronchial tubes, then the answer is yes. If you work in an environment that is free of airborne pollutants or allergens, then the answer is no unless job-related stress is a factor.

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, introducing an air cleaning system, or treatment with asthma medications all may improve asthma at work. Of course, the ultimate solution when all else fails is to consider a change of job or profession.