Clinical Case Study in Occupational and Environmental Medicine
A nurse with persistent cough and wheeze
If her illness is occupational asthma, what would you need to do then?
The first priority would be to identify what exactly was causing her breathlessness and then to prevent her exposure to it.
Then one would need to protect her workmates too.
Other issues like compensation are less urgent but might need to follow later.
In the short term she might need some time off work to resolve these matters, but you need to liaise with the occupational physician at her workplace - and quite urgently too.
She needs to get back to safe work, and her colleagues must be protected as well.
She would probably need relocation - at least temporarily.
Substitution of the process or the agent might be warranted, or better containment and local exhaust ventilation - or a combination of all these methods.
Note that personal protection (such as appropriate masks) are ideally a measure of last, not first, resort.
All these steps to assess risks to health in the workplace and to reduce these risks constitute the discipline of Occupational Hygiene.
What other circumstances might lead to occupational asthma in health care workers?
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Acknowledgement:The case description on which this educational resource is based is (c) copyright of the University of Manchester. It is temporarily housed on this website for technical and other reasons.