oa Current Allergy & Clinical Immunology - An approach to work-related asthma in the South African setting : allergies in the workplace

Volume 25, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 1609-3607



Work-related factors, depending on the industry, can be responsible for up to 25% of all adult asthma cases. Despite this, work-related asthma (WRA) remains under-recognised, poorly diagnosed and managed, and inadequately compensated in South Africa. WRA should be considered in all adult patients with new-onset or worsening asthma through taking an appropriate history. The condition can be broadly classified into occupational asthma (OA) due to an allergic or irritant cause, and another entity called work-exacerbated asthma (WEA). OA in South Africa is commonly caused by isocyanates, cereal flour/grain dust, natural rubber latex gloves and cleaning agents. RADS (reactive airways dysfunction syndrome) is caused by exposure to high levels of irritant compounds (e.g. chlorine, ammonia, sulphur dioxide, fire smoke). WEA is due to exacerbation of pre-existing asthma to workplace exposures (e.g. dust, smoke, fumes, cleaning agents) and physical factors (e.g. cold air, strenuous work). Early diagnosis and avoidance of further exposure are the cornerstones of patient management for WRA. All three major phenotypes of WRA are compensable in South Africa. Assisting the patient with a workers' compensation claim will ensure preservation of income and improved quality of life of affected workers.

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