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Xaver Baur, Tor Brøvig Aasen, P. Sherwood Burge, Dick Heederik, Paul K. Henneberger, Piero Maestrellif, Vivi Schlünssen, Olivier Vandenplas and Dennis Wilken

Eur Respir Rev June 1, 2012 vol. 21 no. 124 125-139

The aim of the European Respiratory Society work-related asthma guidelines is to present the management and prevention options of work-related asthma and their effectiveness.

Work-related asthma accounts for 5–25% of all adult asthma cases and is responsible for a significant socioeconomic burden. Several hundred occupational agents, mainly allergens but also irritants and substances with unknown pathological mechanisms, have been identified as causing work-related asthma.

The essential message of these guidelines is that the management of work-related asthma can be considerably optimised based on the present knowledge of causes, risk factors, pathomechanisms, and realistic and effective interventions. To reach this goal we urgently require greatly intensified primary preventive measures and improved case management. There is now a substantial body of evidence supporting the implementation of comprehensive medical surveillance programmes for workers at risk. Those workers who fail surveillance programmes need to be referred to a clinician who can confirm or exclude an occupational cause. Once work-related asthma is confirmed, a revised risk assessment in the workplace is needed to prevent further cases. These new guidelines confirm and extend already existing statements and recommendations. 

We hope that these guidelines will initiate the much-needed research that is required to fill the gaps in our knowledge and to initiate substantial improvements in preventative measures.