Asthma at Work: 7 Ways You Won't Get Sick

Your work environment could be making you sick. Wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath might be indicators that something at work is triggering your symptoms. Workplace asthma (or occupational asthma) is one of the most common on-the-job health occurrences according to research presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology in 2009. Scientists say that 9 to 15 percent of asthma cases are attributed to workplace elements. These include dust, mold, cleaning supplies, scented products, animals, foods, and perfumes. When you come into contact with such substances, they can trigger your sensitive airways and cause an asthma attack.

In some people, workplace factors just exasperate asthma symptoms that already exist . In other people, the problem is isolated only in the workplace, making them feel sick during the day, then better once they get home.

Take Action against Asthma at Work

Since everyone is different, it may take some detective work to identify what's causing your asthma at work. Here, seven steps you can take on the job to protect your airways:

1. Prohibit dust from sharing your office space. Make it a point to dust and vacuum your workspace regularly to keep this offender away. Also eliminate clutter, area rugs, and anything else that can encourage a buildup of allergens.

2. Clean your space. Frequent cleanings can remove a buildup of dust, pollen, and other triggers. Just be sure to use hypoallergenic cleaning products and run an air filter as needed.

3. Check plants at the door.  The soil can be breeding ground for mold and can spark asthma if you're sensitive to this trigger.

4. Ask coworkers to leave their perfume at home if the scent leaves you breathless.

5. Wear a face mask when you work with chemicals and other products that can set off an asthmatic reaction. And wash your clothes when you get home in case any of the fumes are lingering in the fabric.

6. Sometimes a new location can make a world of difference. Ask to move your workspace if something in the air seems to trigger your symptoms. A different part of the building, or even a different address entirely, may solve the problem.

7. If you suspect water damage in the building could be the cause of your symptoms, make sure to tell your supervisor or human resource representative about your concerns and have it checked. Hidden mold can trigger asthma and make you, and others, sick.

If this isn't enough, your doctor can help you figure out other causes you might be missing and can help you to control asthma at work with the latest medications.


"Characteristics and Medical Resource Use of Asthmatic Subjects With and Without Work-Related Asthma." AAAAI. AAAAI, 2007. Web. 16 Nov. 2010.

"Does Your Job Make You Itch and Wheeze?" American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. ACAAI, 10 Nov. 2009. Web. 16 Nov. 2010.

"Latex Allergy: A Guide to Prevention." Occupational Health Surveillance Unit. State of New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, 10 Dec. 2008. Web. 16 Nov. 2010.