ASTHMA AT WORK!
You don’t have to wheeze at work
WEspend more time at work than we do at home. Apart from the many obvious problems of this when it comes to work-life balance, there are some certain health implications related to the working environment. One area that affects too many people is exposure to certain irritants at work that potentially trigger allergies. These can affect your skin, throat, eyes and your lungs. And when it comes to your lungs, this can lead to asthma or asthma-like symptoms including wheezing. Do you have asthma at work? If you notice you tend to cough and struggle to breathe at or after work but on the weekend or holidays you are fine, then there may be something in your workplace that is affecting your health. It is estimated that nearly 10% of people with asthma find that exposure to their work environment makes their asthma worse.
1. IT IS NOT ALWAYS EASY TO DEFINE THE PROBLEM IN THE WORKPLACE.
You may not be able to manage your exposure to the irritants. It can be as simple as the air conditioner filters not having been cleaned recently and being full of mould, pollens or dust. Also, there may be specific chemicals in the environment that cause irritation such as cleaning chemicals.
2. EXPOSURE TO SECOND HAND CIGARETTE SMOKE.
One thing that most workplaces should have already addressed, is exposure to second hand cigarette smoke. Smoking is bad for an individual’s health, but if you are asthmatic, it can be a major trigger for an attack of asthma. With the current age of science and knowledge, society really needs to advance and remove cigarettes from the workplace entirely. There is much legislation in places like restaurants, bars and clubs and there are laws about smoking within a certain distance to buildings such as hospitals. However, there are still gaps in the workplace environment that need to be addressed. Whilst those who choose to smoke have the right to do so, people who choose not to smoke are equally entitled to not be exposed to toxic passive smoke at work.
3. A LIST OF MORE SPECIFIC IRRITANTS AND ALLERGENS IN WORK PLACE:
• general dust in the building and offices • some worksites have a lot of dust, such as concrete factories, wood working and cutting factories
some work environments can emit gases and fumes, including fumes from cleaning chemicals lotions and fragrances including strong perfumes used by some people, can be equally toxic to those who are sensitive to certain fragrances sensitivity to perfumes is a very real condition and some people are quite allergic, developing watery eyes and runny noses when exposed to even small amounts. So, if you love wearing perfumes, then it would be wise to ask your colleagues at work, if they are struggling with the odour from your perfume or deodorant.
4. WHAT YOU CAN DO TO MINIMISE ASTHMA AT WORK?
With such a list of problems, how does one go about reducing the exposure to potential allergens? The first thing to do is to work out what is triggering the attacks. This can be easier said than done. If you think you have worked out what may be causing you to be unwell, then you need to talk to your employer or health safety officer. There may be protective equipment that can solve the issue. If it is something like the cleaning products being used by the office cleaners, maybe they can try something different. A friendly chat to the perfume addict maybe helpful too! Remember it is your health and it is your right to be safe and minimize asthma at work.
Dr David McIntosh is a Paediatric ENT Specialist with a particular interest in airway obstruction, facial and dental development and its relationship to ENT airway problems and middle ear disease. He also specialises in sinus disease and provides opinions on the benefit of revision of previous sinus operations. Dr McIntosh can be contacted via website.