Types of Asthma
In addition to the stereotpyical asthma with symptoms such as shortness of breath or wheezing with changes in temperature, infections, or allergies, there are also subtypes of asthma:
- Occupational Asthma
- Exercise Induced Bronchoconstriction
Do you have wheezing, coughing or shortness of breath at work? If so, you could have occupational asthma.
Is your asthma caused by your work?
The answer to this question may be very difficult. It begins with you, yourself, answering many questions about your asthma and your work. For instance:
Did your asthma start when you changed jobs? Does your asthma improve when you are away from your job? Do you suspect anything at work is causing your problem? Is anything at work triggering your asthma?
Asthma caused by work is called occupational asthma. Asthma due to other causes (non-occupational asthma) also sometimes can be worsened by the workplace environment.
Proving it is occupational asthma
Some experts suspect that exposures in the workplace may be the cause of 5 percent to 10 percent of asthma, and occupational asthma can cause long-term problems. If work-related asthma is suspected, then that possibility should be evaluated. We will need to ask you many questions about your asthma, your work and how they may be related.
Prepare yourself to answer these questions accurately. You should be able to describe your current and past jobs and whether/how they seem to relate to your asthma. You should be able to explain your job and job conditions exactly, including any exposure to fumes, gases, smoke, irritants, chemicals, potential allergens or excessive environmental conditions, such as heat, cold or dryness, as well as many manufacturing or processing conditions to which you are exposed.
Spray painting is one of the most common workplace hazards linked to occupational asthma, but there are hundreds of possible irritants or allergens that could cause your problem. You can usually obtain exact details of your potential work exposures from your work supervisor, who may give you Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) safety literature that describes potential work-related problems. Review and make available to your treating physician the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for all chemicals that you are exposed to at work (So far, about 250 potential causes of occupational asthma are known.)
Doctor may prescribe tests
Suspecting that you may have work-related asthma and knowing that you are exposed to a potential cause of asthma does not prove that you have occupational asthma. To do this, you must take notes on how your work seems to affect your asthma. Proof may require medical examinations and testing at work and away from work. Further specific tests, such as challenge tests, which observe your body's reaction when exposed to potentially problematic substances, or blood tests, may be necessary to prove the suspected occupational asthma and its cause. Any asthma evaluation must also consider non-occupational causes of asthma since these are more common and require different treatment.
Treating occupational asthma
Therapy for occupational asthma stresses avoiding whatever causes the asthma. This often means quitting the job or making changes in the workplace to avoid the cause. This is particularly difficult with occupational asthma, since having to leave your job or avoid certain types of work can greatly influence the quality of your life. In addition, trying to change the workplace to avoid causes of asthma often can be difficult and expensive.
Breathing Problems During Exercise
If your chest feels tight, you have trouble catching your breath or you cough during or after exercise, you might have exercise-induced bronchoconstriction. That's EIB for short, and it simply means breathing problems brought on by exercise. Most people with asthma have EIB. But, it's also possible to have EIB and not have asthma. The good news is you can exercise control when you exercise.
No matter what sport or exercise activities you do, we can work with you to keep your condition under control.
What happens if I have EIB?
- To help you manage your EIB, keep track of your exercise and symptoms with a Journal.
When you exercise hard and do things such as running, skiing, biking or an aerobics class, you breathe more rapidly. This fast breathing can make the airways inside your lungs dry and irritated. As a result, the airways actually get smaller, and it's hard to get air in and out of your lungs. This is more likely to happen when you exercise in cold, dry air, or when there is a sudden change in temperature or humidity.