Sports injuries

January/February 2010

Work related asthma

Diagnosis and management

Volume 39, No.1, January/February 2010 Pages 39-42

Ryan F Hoy

Michael J Abramson

Malcolm R Sim


Work related asthma (WRA) is a common condition and is under recognised in Australia. Work related asthma refers to the development of new asthma due to occupational factors (occupational asthma) and the worsening of asthma control due to occupational factors (work exacerbated asthma).


This article discusses the diagnosis and management of work related asthma in Australia.


All clinicians who treat adult patients with asthma should enquire about the patient’s occupation. Key features of WRA include: a temporal association between asthma symptoms and work activities (especially an improvement in symptoms when away from the workplace), identification of relevant workplace exposures (eg. use of a known cause of occupational asthma) and the development of respiratory symptoms in coworkers. Optimal management of WRA requires early recognition and accurate diagnosis. Increased awareness of WRA and the introduction of effective workplace control should reduce the prevalence of WRA and the overall burden of asthma in our community.

Asthma has a high prevalence in the Australian community and certain occupations have the potential to influence the onset and severity of asthma symptoms. Occupational factors need to be carefully considered as part of the diagnosis and management of all working age adults with asthma. The Case study is a typical scenario of work related asthma (WRA).

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