What is occupational asthma?

Asthma is a condition in which the airways of the lungs become inflamed. Together with muscle spasms the airways narrow so they carry less air in and out of the lungs. Symptoms of asthma include coughing, wheezing, tightness in the chest, and shortness of breath.

An increasing number of people develop asthma in childhood. If you already have asthma, it can be made worse at work (for example, by tobacco smoke, dust or cold air).

Occupational asthma is caused by exposure to chemical or biological substances at work.

Although occupational asthma usually develops very quickly, it can also build up over months or even years. Once you have become 'sensitised' to a particular substance or substances, being exposed to even tiny amounts of it will trigger an attack.If exposure continues, symptoms are likely to become more severe.

Occupational asthma is a very serious disease that can leave people so disabled that they can neither work nor enjoy everyday activities. But it is preventable.

Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.