Occupational Lung Diseases
Occupational lung diseases are caused by harmful particles, mists, vapors or gases inhaled while a person works. The body has several ways of getting rid of inhaled particles. In the airways, mucus coats particles so they can be coughed up more easily. In the lungs, special scavenger cells engulf most particles and render them harmless. Sometimes, the body’s defenses cannot fight off harmful inhaled particles, and disease develops.
At OccNet, the occupational health service of the Health Alliance, the most common of these diseases is occupational asthma. According to occupational health specialist JK, M.D., “This develops either as a true allergy or as a result of a massive exposure (usually a spill) with irritation of the airways, leading to a susceptibility to asthma.”
The best ways to prevent occupational asthma include good ventilation and substituting allergenic materials with those less likely to cause allergy. If neither of these is possible, respiratory protective equipment is also an option.
In the case of occupational lung disease, prevention is worth a pound of cure. However, drugs and other treatments are beneficial in most disorders. If you are having respiratory symptoms that may be related to occupational exposures to harmful particles, see an occupational specialist. Occupational medicine specialists are trained to sort out the complex history and time line of symptoms, as well as order necessary diagnostic tests and begin treatment.
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