ASTHMA AT WORK!

You don’t have to wheeze at work

Great Health Guide - - CONTENTS - Dr David McIn­tosh

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.

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