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Study Finds Healthcare Workers Have High Prevalence of Asthma

Among working adults in the United States during 2011 to 2016, 6.8% had current asthma. Of those with current asthma, 44.7% had experienced an asthma attack in the previous year, and nearly 10% had an episode serious enough to send them to the emergency department (ED).

That’s according to an article in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Researchers from the CDC note that as much as 51% of adult asthma could be work-related, with the greatest prevalence in the healthcare and social assistance industry (8.8%). Healthcare and social assistance also had the highest number of workers with asthma attacks (857,000).

“These findings might assist physicians to identify workers who should be evaluated for possible work-related asthma in industries and occupations with a high prevalence of asthma, asthma attacks, and asthma-related ED visits and could help public health officials identify workplaces where detailed investigations for prevention and control might be appropriate,” study authors explain. “Continued surveillance is important to assess asthma prevalence and trends by respondents’ industry and occupation.”

Of workers with current asthma, those likeliest to show up at the ED were age 18–24 years (10.5%), females (11.7%), non-Hispanic blacks (17.6%), those with less than high school education (13.3%), those categorized as poor (17.0%), those with no health insurance (14.5%), and those living in the South (11.3%).

The greatest prevalence of asthma attacks among workers with asthma was in the transportation and warehousing industries (51.7%), and asthma-related ED visits were reported in 13.1% of information industry workers with asthma.

CDC researchers used the 2011–2016 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) to assess the industry- and occupation-specific prevalence of current asthma, asthma attacks, and asthma-related ED visits among working adults. Participants were limited to those 18 or older who, at the time of the survey, were employed at some time during the 12 months preceding the interview.

“The increased prevalence of current asthma, asthma attacks, and asthma-related ED visits in certain industries and occupations might indicate increased risks for these health outcomes associated with workplace exposures,” the researchers point out. “The highest prevalence of current asthma was among workers in the healthcare and social assistance industry and in healthcare support occupations. New-onset work-related asthma in these workers has been associated with exposure to cleaning and disinfecting products, powdered latex gloves, and aerosolized medications.”