RR1005 - Work aggravated asthma: A review of reviews

Seven percent of the adult population have asthma, a condition commonly made worse by inhaling irritant exposures at work; termed work-aggravated asthma (WAA). A variety of factors that cause WAA have been identified by this review, including inhaled exposures, physical factors and behavioural issues.

WAA is common. A recent comprehensive review identified that more than 1 in 5 workers with asthma have this condition. There are, however, no GB based prevalence estimates.

WAA is an unpleasant condition. Workers complain of cough, wheeze, chest tightness and shortness of breath that is aggravated at work. These symptoms are likely to influence work absence, presenteeism and work efficiency. Their presence is also associated with significant adverse socio-economic impacts for workers and workplaces.

A variety of medical tests may be needed to help make a diagnosis of WAA, and distinguish this from occupational asthma. These tests are normally only available in specialised units with a particular interest in occupational asthma.

Very little GB data exists about interventions to reduce the associated burdens to the individual and the workplace. These include improving asthma treatments, worker education and training and assessing risks posed by various known hazards with particular relevance to asthma.

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Updated 2021-04-15