According to a recent study, people with asthma avoid talking with their doctors about work-related asthma. The findings were published in the current issue of Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. The study reveals that, while it is a difficult topic, effective communication on health topics such as these is a key component of the patient–physician relationship.
The team of researchers led by Jacek Mazurek assessed a total of 50, 433 employed adults aged 18 years and over that suffer with asthma. Data was retrieved between 2006 and 2010 from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Asthma Call-Back Survey. Participants were asked about their communication patterns about asthma associated with work with their physicians or other health professional. Participants were asked:
– Are there airborne exposures at your workplace that cause you to cough, wheeze or have shortness of breath?
– Do your symptoms improve when away from your job (on weekends or on vacation)?
Data analysis with logistic regression revealed that in 9.1% of the participants, their doctors told them that their asthma was related to their job. A total of 11.7% of the participants never told their doctors that their asthma was job-related. The researchers combined the responses and found that 14.7% of the participants communicated with their doctors that their asthma was work-related.
Results also revealed that communication about work-related asthma was associated with age, race or ethnicity, employment, education, income, insurance, and urgent treatment for worsening asthma.
“Work-related asthma is under-diagnosed and under-recognized,” said Jacek Mazurek, MD, MS, PhD, Public Health Surveillance Team Leader at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and lead author of the study in a recent press release. “A thorough occupational history is critical to first establishing a diagnosis of work-related asthma, and then putting measures in place to prevent further exposure, or to treat it.” Unfortunately, many people may believe that nothing can be done, or may worry about losing their jobs, so are reluctant to address the topic with their doctor.”
Findings from this study indicate that only a small proportion of patients with asthma communicate with their doctors about work-related asthma.
“Hundreds of different workplace airborne exposures have been identified to cause or aggravate asthma,” said allergist Mark S. Dykewicz, MD, Chair of the ACAAI Occupational Health Committee in the press release. “Problem exposures may include chemicals, dusts, fumes, insects and animals that are encountered not only in factories, but also farms, offices, medical and research settings and offices. If someone already has asthma, it can be worsened by airborne substances at work.”