Asthma is a condition which affects the airways. Sometimes it can develop or be made worse by unsafe conditions in the workplace. This is known as occupational asthma, and it affects a significant number of workers each year.
While the overall number of cases is dropping, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) reports that there were 117 (estimated) new cases of occupational asthma in 2015. This number may seem relatively low when compared with a decade earlier, when there were around 350 new cases and 450 in 2006, the HSE says that it's likely the 2015 figure is an underestimation.
The symptoms of occupational asthma – wheezing, coughing, tightness in your chest, shortness of breath – develop when your airways become irritated by hazardous substances such as flour or grain dust. When exposed to such substances, the airways can become inflamed and swell up, causing them to become narrower, making it harder for you to breathe.
Occupational asthma - Some facts
There are number of things you should know about how asthma develops and its likely causes:
- You can develop asthma at any age. Some people get asthma during childhood and it is not uncommon for it to disappear, only to return in later life. Some people develop "late onset" asthma in later life even though they never had symptoms as a child.
Asthma is often hereditary.
Late onset asthma can arise with or without exposure to irritants.
Irritants in the workplace can lead to a person developing asthma. According to the HSE, the most common causes are isocyanates and flour/grain dust.
Occupational asthma is caused by breathing in substances at work. Once the lungs become sensitive further exposure to the substance can provoke a further attack.
Exposure to irritants at work can inflame the airways of individuals with pre-existing conditions. Sometimes the individual does not become sensitised to the agent but the attack can still be work related.
- A sufferer of occupational asthma may show symptoms immediately after exposure to a hazardous substance, or it may take years before they feel any of the effects.
Is your asthma linked to your job?
When deciding whether there is a link between your asthma and occupation, your doctor will usually ask whether your symptoms are better on days when you're off work and if they're worse when you're around particular substances. They can then test which exact substance is triggering your asthma to provide you with the best possible treatment plan.
If you're suffering from any of the symptoms of asthma or have started to experience the early warning signs, which include eye irritation, nasal congestion, and an itchy runny nose that lasts longer than a few weeks, then you should see your GP straight away. There should be particular concern if you work in any of the jobs which pose a risk of occupational asthma.
Finding out that you've developed asthma later in life can be very stressful. Depending on the severity of your case, you may be required to go through a lot of readjusting as you may have to incorporate a new treatment plan into your daily lifestyle. Although treatments for asthma have come a very long way in the past few decades and the condition is manageable for the vast majority of sufferers, it is not right to have suffered because of your job. There are health and safety guidelines in place to prevent workers in at-risk industries from developing asthma, and if your employer has failed to take sufficient notice of these, then that is a case of negligence. What's more, you could be able to make a compensation claim with Thompsons Solicitors.
Take the first steps towards compensation with Thompsons
With No Win No Fee Solicitors in offices across Scotland, Thompsons is the largest personal injury firm in the country. Dealing with an illness can mean a lot of emotional distress as well as a financial burden, and though it unfortunately won't cure your occupational asthma symptoms, receiving a fair amount of recompense can help ease the strain of dealing with them. Our team of dedicated personal injury lawyers will do all they can to get the best possible outcome for you.
Call us on today on 0800 0891331 to see how we can help you. Our No Win No Fee Solicitors package can help settle any financial concern you may have about going forward – if your case is unsuccessful, then you will not have a penny to pay.