Allergists: Occupational asthma and dermatitis underdiagnosed

January 14, 2010

Occupational contact dermatitis and asthma are among the most common, yet underdiagnosed, workplace health issues, suggests research presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology in Miami Beach, FL.

Researchers stated that occupational contact dermatitis is underestimated by 10 to 50 times and anywhere from 9 to 15 percent of all asthma cases are likely work-related, according to a press release from ACAAI.

Occupational contact dermatitis is an inflammation of the skin caused by exposure to chemical, biological or physical agents in the workplace. Hands are the most commonly affected body part, ACAAI said. Occupational asthma is inflammation of the airways that leads to coughing, wheezing or shortness of breath. It is caused by the inhalation of gases, fumes or allergens in the workplace.

Although 80 percent of workers can recover from occupational contact dermatitis if they take preventive measures against the irritant, occupational asthma can be harder to treat. In some cases, loss of lung function is irreversible, the press release said.

Researchers noted that fear of losing their jobs may prevent some workers from properly treating these conditions, as measures for avoiding allergens and irritants may include staying away from the workplace.