Does the thought of going to work make you sick? If you have asthma and you work around chemicals, fumes, or scented products, your job could be triggering your symptoms and causing you to feel pretty miserable. Even people who've never had asthma before may find that their workplace environment causes them to develop this condition.

Asthma and Work

The American Academy of Allergies, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI) estimates that one in seven adults experiences occupational asthma, which means that their symptoms are caused by something they come into contact with in the workplace.

It's often difficult to pinpoint exactly what's causing the problem, since the signs, such as wheezing, coughing, chest pressure, and nasal congestion, can be the same as those caused by regular asthma. Further, all sorts of jobs can be related to workplace asthma, but some seem to particularly lend themselves to triggering symptoms because of their specific settings or the substances that the workers use on a regular basis.

5 High-Risk Jobs for Workplace Asthma

Here are five careers that are actually high risk for causing workplace asthma:

1. Healthcare Workers: You may think that working in a medical environment would provide a particularly sterile setting where your risk of asthma would be minimized. In reality, though, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) says that as many as 1.4 million people in the health care field come into contact with latex, which is a known allergy and asthma trigger.

The root of the problem is often a powder that lines latex gloves and has been known to trigger asthma in people who are highly sensitized. If you can't avoid exposure to the gloves yourself, you'll need to try medication to control your symptoms.

2. Hairstylists. Styling hair and putting on makeup doesn't sound particularly dangerous. But some people find that the fumes in the hair dyes and styling products can cause symptoms. People who work with fragrances, cosmetics, and nail polishes may also be bothered by the chemicals and scents, and find that the process of beautifying customers can spark their own ugly respiratory symptoms. Wearing a mask and using your asthma control medications may help, as can switching to organic products or ones that have less fumes and scents.

3. Bakers. While baking sounds like a delicious career choice, it means that you'll be exposed to flour dust on a regular basis. AAFA reports that this ingredient can spark asthma and related allergy symptoms in as many as 30 percent of the people who work in this field. If this sounds familiar, you may need to wear a mask at work to help you avoid breathing in the powder, and take your asthma and allergy medicines before you start to bake.

4. Veterinarians: Working with animals is a very rewarding career, but it also poses some serious risks for developing respiratory issues that can intensify the longer you work in the field. This is because veterinarians and other clinic veterinary clinic staff may develop asthma as the result of long-term exposure to animal proteins contained in pets' dander and saliva. If allergy and asthma medications aren't enough to manage the problem, you should talk to your doctor about trying immunotherapy to build up your tolerance to animals.

5. Housekeepers. If you think that keeping things spic and span will minimize your contact with allergens, think again. In the process of cleaning, you may be trading one trigger (such as dust) for another (such as fumes), since many cleaning products contain chemicals, fumes, and scents. Prolonged exposure to any or all of these can cause your asthma. When this problem strikes, try wearing a facemask while you clean, and use your asthma medications. You can also look for natural products that have fewer fumes. It could take some experimentation to find what supplies you tolerate the best.

Taking Control of the Asthma and Work Problem

Regardless of your career choice, when you experience new symptoms on the job, it's important to take them seriously and to explore the connection between asthma and work. It can help to keep track of your symptoms and when and where they occur, and to notice if they resolve when you're away from the workplace setting.

If you believe your job is making you sick, you should talk to your employer about the problem and try work out accommodations to minimize your exposure to triggers. Some common fixes include installing better ventilation systems, using allergy and asthma medications to control the reaction, and wearing a facemask or respirator in high-risk situations. When all else fails and work is still making you sick, it could be time to explore a new career path.

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