Workplace exacerbation of asthma symptoms: findings from a population-based study in Maine

Arch Environ Health. 2003 Dec;58(12):781-8. doi: 10.1080/00039896.2003.10745072.


In this population-based study of asthma in the State of Maine, the authors investigated how often asthma symptoms were exacerbated in the workplace. Participants from 5 hospital service areas in Maine completed a telephone questionnaire. Of 474 adult participants (18-65 yr of age) employed during the preceding year and for whom information on occupation and industry was available, 64 (13.5%) were identified with current asthma, including 28 (5.9%) with current physician-diagnosed asthma and 36 (7.6%) who met criteria for symptoms consistent with asthma. Jobs were identified a priori as "high-risk" or "low-risk" for asthma. Of the 64 asthma cases, 16 (25%) reported that their coughing or wheezing worsened at work. Among the symptom-based cases, the percentage with workplace exacerbation of asthma was elevated for high-risk jobs (7/14 = 50%) vs. low-risk jobs (3/22 = 13.6%) (p = 0.03). No similar elevation was observed for individuals with current physician-diagnosed asthma, which might have resulted, in part, from a healthy worker effect.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Air Pollution, Indoor / adverse effects
  • Asthma / etiology*
  • Asthma / pathology*
  • Disease Progression
  • Epidemiologic Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Job Description
  • Maine
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Personnel, Hospital
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Workplace*