Patients Reluctant to Address Work-Related Asthma

Just 15% of employed adults with asthma consult with their health care professional on how work conditions might affect their disease.

Just 15% of employed adults with asthma consult with their health care professional on how work conditions might affect their disease, according to a new study published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

Researchers reviewed data from the 2006 to 2010 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Asthma Call-Back Survey, which included more than 50,000 employed adults aged ≥18 years with asthma. They determined that only 14.7% of those patients had ever communicated with a health care professional about asthma and work, even though 46% of the study population potentially had work-related asthma.

According to an American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology press release, questions that health care professionals can ask to determine whether their patients’ asthma is related to work include: “Are there airborne exposures at your workplace that cause you to cough, wheeze, or have shortness of breath?” and “Do your symptoms improve when you’re away from your job on weekends or on vacation?”

Lead study author Jacek Mazurek, MD, MS, PhD, public health surveillance team leader at the National Institute for Occupational Safety, said in a press release that patients might not bring up work-related asthma for fear of losing their jobs. They might also believe that nothing can be done about their work-related asthma.

“Work-related asthma is under-diagnosed and under-recognized,” Dr. Mazurek said in a press release. “A thorough occupational history is critical to first establishing a diagnosis of work-related asthma, and then putting measures in place to prevent further exposure or to treat it.”