Background: Occupational asthma is the most frequently reported occupational respiratory disease in registries, and is often co-diagnosed with occupational rhinitis. We undertook a systematic review of the English-language epidemiologic literature linking these two conditions, with emphasis on progression from occupational rhinitis to occupational asthma.
Methods: PubMed and Embase were queried in a series of structured searches designed to identify studies comparing occupational asthma and occupational rhinitis incidence or prevalence in occupationally exposed individuals.
Results: The searches yielded a total of 109 unique citations, 15 of which yielded inferential data on the occupational rhinitis-asthma relationship. Nine of fifteen studies showed statistically significant associations between the occurrence of occupational rhinitis and occupational asthma among individual workers.
Conclusions: Limited data support the notion that occupational rhinitis precedes the development of occupational asthma, particularly when high-molecular-weight (HMW) agents are involved. The relationship between the two conditions could not be evaluated in many relevant studies due to a lack of cross-tabulation of individual cases.
Keywords: epidemiology; occupational asthma; occupational rhinitis; specific inhalation challenge; united airways disease.
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