Does your job leave you short of breath?


Did you know that you could develop work-related asthma even if you have never had it before? Asthma either is a disease of the lungs that can worsen by exposure to triggers — if you already have asthma — or develop in healthy lungs. Different industries in California expose workers to mold, dust, chemicals, plants, animals and about 300 other known substances that can cause asthma.

Asthma caused or aggravated by exposure to triggers at work is occupational asthma. Some workers may find the condition only affects them while they are at work.

What are the symptoms of asthma?

If you experience any of the following symptoms when you are at work, it could be asthma:

  • Do you experience tightness of your chest?
  • Are you having trouble breathing?
  • Are you coughing and wheezing whenever you are at work?

You could develop some or all of these symptoms while working, and they may or may not disappear when you go home, on your days off, or when you are on vacation.

How can you control asthma?

Your first step in managing your asthma would be to report it to your employer. Your boss might want you to keep a log of your condition to determine what triggers your breathing problems. The following steps can help you to identify what substances cause your symptoms:

  • Participate in logging or surveillance plans your employer suggests.
  • Be alert to anything that affects your breathing or causes the tightening of your chest.
  • Report those triggers to your employer and avoid exposure to them.
  • Report any worsening of your breathing problems to both your employer or supervisor and your doctor.
  • Learn how to use the personal protective equipment your employer provides appropriately.
  • Keep in mind that PPE can never be 100% effective against asthma. You will still have to take the medications your doctor prescribed and go for frequent checkups.
  • If you are a smoker, it could exacerbate asthma, and finding help to quit would be a good idea.

Reducing or stopping exposure to triggers is the best way to treat asthma. Typical treatment includes prescribed medications to control your asthma along with inhalers to provide quick relief and open your airways to prevent emergencies.

Workers’ compensation

Although the California workers’ compensation insurance system covers occupational diseases, proving that your asthma is work-related could be challenging. The sensible step would be to utilize the skills of an attorney who has experience in helping workers in all industries get compensation to cover medical expenses and lost wages along with additional benefits if your condition prevents you from returning to work.

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