Working and Asthma

Being an asthmatic and working can pose numerous challenges. I have been told in the past it must be easier for me since I am a severe asthmatic, but also a Respiratory Therapist. While it can have its perks working in a hospital, it also still has its challenges. For the longest time I would hide the fact that I am an asthmatic. I have actually written an article in the past about the importance of not being a “hider” and not hiding the fact that we have asthma. There are some steps you can take to make sure you are prepared if your asthma starts to act up while working.

Tell your boss and coworkers

Whether you are new to your job or have been there for 20+ years, it is so important to inform your management team that you have asthma. I know this can be difficult to be open about it but it is vital that you do so. Think of it as a “just in case” precaution if you are ever having breathing trouble they will be aware of your asthma history and will be able to help you and/or call for help.

Be prepared

Make sure to have your rescue inhaler with you at work. For me personally, I keep my inhaler in my pocket and I also have my small portable nebulizer in my locker as well as my medication to go with it. It also wouldn't hurt to have a copy of your asthma action plan, list of medications and emergency contact list.

Don’t wait

If you feel your asthma acting up, don't wait to treat it. As always, follow your doctors recommended dosages and frequency of your rescue medication. Don't try to ‘tough it out’ until your shift is over. It can lead to a severe asthma attack.

Watch for triggers

Depending on what kind of job you have, you might be exposed to different triggers. Once you identify what they are, you will be able to protect yourself. Having a mask on hand won’t hurt and can come in handy. Ask your workplace if they have a no scent policy if you are triggered by perfumes or body sprays. I totally understand not wanting to make a big deal about people wearing perfume/cologne and potentially being labeled as a tattle tale, however you need to take into consideration your health. One of my big triggers is harsh cleaning solutions, specifically bleach. It became an issue for me in a previous job and after talking with my boss about it, they were very receptive and understanding and opted to use a different cleaning solution and would clean the floors when I wasn't there. I was very appreciative for that. Working in a hospital during flu season also poses its challenges. Even though I get my flu shot every year, I still take extra precautions and wear a mask when treating potentially contagious patients. Frequent hand washing is also vital to help protect yourself from catching any illnesses that might be going around.

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