What is occupational asthma?

Asthma is a condition in which the airways of the lungs become inflamed. Together with muscle spasms the airways narrow so they carry less air in and out of the lungs. Symptoms of asthma include coughing, wheezing, tightness in the chest, and shortness of breath.

An increasing number of people develop asthma in childhood. If you already have asthma, it can be made worse at work (for example, by tobacco smoke, dust or cold air).

Occupational asthma is caused by exposure to chemical or biological substances at work.

Although occupational asthma usually develops very quickly, it can also build up over months or even years. Once you have become 'sensitised' to a particular substance or substances, being exposed to even tiny amounts of it will trigger an attack.If exposure continues, symptoms are likely to become more severe.

Occupational asthma is a very serious disease that can leave people so disabled that they can neither work nor enjoy everyday activities. But it is preventable by avoiding exposure to substances that cause it, and your employer has a legal duty to do so.

It is curable, but only if it is spotted early and you stop being exposed to the substance that is causing it. If not, permanent damage could occur.