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Defining occupational asthma and confirming the diagnosis: what do experts suggest?
  1. Jean-Luc Malo1,
  2. Anthony Newman Taylor2
  1. 1Hôpital du Sacré-Coeur de Montreal, Montréal, Canada
  2. 2Department of Occupational & Environmental Medicine, Imperial College Faculty of Medicine, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 Jean-Luc Malo
 Department of Chest Medicine, Hôpital du Sacré-Coeur de Montréal, 5400 W Gouin Blvd, Montreal, Canada H4J 1C5; malojl{at} and Professor A J Newman Taylor, Department of Occupational & Environmental Medicine, Imperial College Faculty of Medicine, Emmanuel Kaye Building, Manresa Road, London SW3 6LR, UK; a.newmant{at}

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Diagnosis of occupational asthma

Questionnaires administered in general populations have shown that about 10–15% of subjects with asthma report that their asthma is worse at work.1 A proportion of these subjects may show what is called occupational asthma (OA)—that is, asthma caused by an agent inhaled at work. It is important to confirm or exclude a diagnosis of OA for at least two reasons: (1) if a worker with OA continues to be exposed to the causal agent, this can lead to worsening of asthma and diminishes the likelihood of resolution; it has been shown consistently that the duration of exposure with symptoms is the principal determinant of persisting asthma after avoidance of exposure2,3 and (2) removing a worker from her/his workplace has serious psychosocioeconomic consequences for the worker, often when young, and also for the employer and society.4 Advice to leave a job in these circumstances needs to be based on a secure foundation. At a time when expensive high-technology imaging testing is available for all sorts of diseases, it is frustrating that frequently advice to a worker to stay at work or to leave is based only on the clinical history.

In this issue of the journal, …

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  • Competing interests: None declared.