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Paul J Nicholson, Associate medical director, Paul Cullinan, Professor in occupational and environmental respiratory disease and Sherwood Burge, Professor in occupational lung diseases

doi: 10.7861/clinmedicine.12-2-156 Clin Med April 1, 2012 vol. 12 no. 2 156-159

This concise guidance, prepared for physicians, summarises the British Occupational Health Research Foundation guideline for the prevention, identification and management of occupational asthma. Approximately one in six people of working age who develop asthma have work-related asthma, where work has either caused or aggravated their disease. Physicians who assess working adults with asthma need to ask the patient about their job and the materials they work with, and be aware of those that carry particular risks; they should also ask whether symptoms improve regularly on days away from work. A diagnosis of occupational asthma (ie asthma caused by work) should not be made on the basis of history alone, but be supported by immunological and physiological investigations of proven diagnostic benefit. Following a validated diagnosis of occupational asthma, physicians should recommend early avoidance of further exposure, because this offers the best chance of complete recovery. If appropriate and timely interventions are not taken, the prognosis of occupational asthma is poor, with only approximately one-third of workers achieving full symptomatic recovery.