Is Your Work Making Your Asthma Worse?

Our work should be a safe place for us, right?

Do you feel okay on the weekends or after work, but when you go back to work, your asthma flares up? It could be “occupational asthma” – things at our occupation (or work), that make our asthma worse.

What are those things?

Well, they could be:

 

  • plants –  wheat, rye, flour and cereal, hemp, cotton, flax and rubber latex
  • enzymes – in flour and detergent
  • animals – from dander, saliva, hair, fur and scales
  • chemicals – in laminates, varnishes, paints, adhesives, packing materials, upholstery and foam mattresses
  • irritants – smoke, sulfur dioxide, and chlorine gas

This isn’t a complete list. Mayo Clinic says there are over 300 things that have been linked to occupational asthma.

Some of those things are allergens – meaning you may be allergic to them. Especially if you have allergies and asthma. Some people with asthma don’t have allergies (lucky ducks!) But for those of us with asthma AND allergies, it means that there are many more things that can cause our asthma to flare up.

Allergies run on both sides of our family. The Hubster and most of his relatives have allergies (and asthma.) All my relatives have allergies and asthma. In fact, the Hubster and I didn’t exactly make for a very good genetic match……. I feel sorry for my kids! All 3 kids inherited our allergies and asthma – and have been hospitalized 12 times due to asthma.

Irritants

For those without allergies, your asthma may be affected by irritants. This affects anyone with asthma. Irritants are anything that can irritate or bother your lungs.

I had an experience with this last week. I work in a 3 story office building with about 300 employees. One morning, I noticed a really nasty smell. I turned on my freestanding fan and pointed it at the door, to blow out the smell. I was trying to catch up on email, but the smell was getting worse. I could hear co-workers passing by my office and talking about the smell.

We could smell it in our suite and the suite across the hall, so we decided to evacuate. Shortly after that, the fire department arrived. Sirens and all! Made for an exciting start to my week!

Not wanting to stand outside in the cold (cold temperatures are one of my asthma triggers), I headed to a sandwich shop to grab a hot chocolate with my coworkers. I sent a text to my boss to let me know when we had the “all clear” to enter the building. I wasn’t going back in there until the smoke was gone!

They traced the smell to an electrical problem on the floor before me. Something had overheated and started to smoke, and my office was up above that office. Scary stuff!

Some people may thing smoke is just annoying, but it can be deadly. Ever hear of people taken to the hospital with smoke inhalation from a fire? Luckily, there wasn’t a fire in my building, just smoke. But maybe that’s because the fire department arrived quickly and traced the problem?

Smoke can be a problem inside buildings as well as outside (smoke from fires and fireworks.) In fact, Middle Son ended up in the hospital in ICU thanks to smoke from a forest fire and fireworks. So, I am VERY careful when it comes to smoke – either inside OR outside.

Our building is back to normal, but my lungs were very sore for a day or two. They do NOT like to be bothered!

Anyone else have problems with something at work that make their asthma worse?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Asthma.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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