Work-Related Asthma

How to Find Help

Doctors who can help you manage your work-related asthma (WRA)

First, see your doctor who usually treats your asthma (whether a family doctor, respirologist, or a specialist in WRA). Talk to them about recording peak flows on work days and off work (preferably before your work shift, mid-shift, post-shift and bedtime, recording 3 blows each time).

If you are diagnosed with work-related asthma your doctor may change your asthma medications. Your doctor can advise you on work conditions that should be safe for you in the future.

  • For example, if your asthma gets worse from temporary construction at work, then you may need a few days off or to move to a separate area until the construction is finished, or perhaps an increase in asthma medications for a short time.

When visiting your doctor, you can also bring in this information sheet to help inform your doctor about the diagnosis and management of work-related asthma:

Information Sheet on WRA: Diagnosis and management of Work-Related Asthma [PDF]
Full consensus statement

Note: this article is an extensive article intended for doctors on the diagnosis and management of work-related asthma.

Allergists and Respirologists

If you work with high-molecular weight agents, then an allergist may be able to perform skin tests to see if you have an allergic response to them. A respirologist may ask you to have laboratory breathing tests (methacholine challenges) done at the end of a work week and the end of a period when you are off work to measure changes. They will also look at your peak flow readings to decide if there are changes that may relate to your work.

Your respirologist or allergist may know of specialists with expertise in work-related asthma who could help you further.

Occupational Medicine Clinics

Occupational medicine clinics can also help assess your work conditions and exposures. Some of these clinics for Ontario are listed in the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW) website.

What to do in an asthma attack

  • Sit down, with your back straight.
  • Take two puffs of your rescue medicine, usually in a blue puffer (for example, Ventolin® Bricanyl®, etc)
  • If your breathing is not getting easier, call 911 or your local emergency number.
  • Keep taking puffs of your blue puffer until the ambulance arrives.

In the same way as asthma from other triggers outside of work, if you have worsened asthma that does not improve with your reliever inhaler (e.g. Ventolin, Bricanyl, etc.) and your written asthma action plan, go to the nearest emergency department.

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