Baltimore Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Discuss Occupational Asthma

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Asthma is a common lung disease characterized by an inflammation of the airways that causes them to swell and narrow. This leads to attacks of wheezing, coughing, chest tightness and shortness of breath. While asthma is commonly regarded as a childhood disease, persons of any age can develop asthma. Asthma that is caused or worsened by factors related to a person’s job is called occupational asthma.

Occupational asthma is the most common occupational lung disease in the industrialized world. It is estimated that up to 15% of adult cases of asthma are job-related. It is possible to develop occupational asthma in almost any workplace, but certain industries present a higher risk. Below are some examples of occupations at high risk, as well as possible irritants associated with them:

  • Metal workers – Cobalt, nickel, platinum, chromium
  • Bakers – Cereal grains, flour, insect and enzyme products, storage mites
  • Carpenters – Wood dust
  • Healthcare workers – Latex, biocides, acrylates, drugs and enzymes
  • Hairdressers – Persulfates, azo dyes, henna and other chemicals
  • Farmers – Animal proteins and dander, fungicides, pesticides
  • Spray painters, insulation installers, plastic and foam industry workers – Isocyanates, acrylates, alkyd resins, glues and adhesives, polyurethane
  • Seafood processors – Seafood

Occupational asthma is caused by inhaling fumes, gases, dust or other potentially harmful substances at work. Symptoms may vary depending on what substance was inhaled, the level of exposure and other factors. There are two main types of occupational asthma. The first is caused by an agent that stimulates the body’s immune system and then triggers asthma. This type of occupational asthma typically develops from a prolonged exposure to a work-related substance and may take weeks or even years to produce symptoms.

Another form of occupational asthma results from a single or multiple high dose exposure to an irritant – typically a gas, aerosol or smoke. In this case, symptoms usually begin immediately or within a few hours of leaving work. A severe form of irritant-induced occupational asthma is called reactive airways dysfunction syndrome (RADS). RADS is a serious condition that usually requires immediate medical attention. Almost all workers suffering from RADS will have excessively responding airways for three months; and more than half will be affected for more than 18 months.

Diagnosing Occupational Asthma

Work-related asthma can cause permanent lung damage, loss of work days, disability or even death. Fortunately, early diagnosis and treatment can improve the health outcome of someone suffering with occupational asthma.

If you believe that exposure to a substance at work is causing you to suffer asthma-like symptoms, there are a number of things you can do to reduce the risk of long-term health problems. They are:

  • See a specialist. Respiratory problems can have many causes and it is not uncommon for workers experiencing asthma symptoms to be incorrectly diagnosed with bronchitis. For this reason, it may be wise to start by seeing a doctor who specializes in asthma, such as an allergist-immunologist or pulmonologist.
  • Document your symptoms. Write down any symptoms you are experiencing and make note of when they occur.
  • Follow up on your doctor’s advice. Your doctor may prescribe a daily asthma control medicine as well as a fast-acting bronchodilator that should be carried with you at all times.
  • Avoid future exposure. Avoiding exposure to the substance that caused your asthma is crucial for improving your health outcome. This may require you to change jobs or move to a location at the work site where there is less risk of exposure. Use of protective gear such as masks and respirators may help in some cases, but over time, even the smallest amount of a substance can trigger an asthma attack.

Baltimore Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Obtain Compensation for Workers Suffering From Occupational Illness

In order to receive any Workers’ Compensation benefits, you must prove that your condition was caused by conditions at your workplace. This can be a tough, uphill battle for those without proper representation. Baltimore Workers’ Compensation lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton fight for workers dealing with occupational disease. We have the experience and the resources to determine what caused your illness and then build a compelling case that will maximize the amount you receive from your occupational disease claim. Contact us online or call 844-556-4LAW (4529) today to schedule your free consultation with one of our highly qualified Baltimore Workers’ Compensation lawyers.