Healthcare Workers have Highest Rates of Asthma, according to CDC

Shortness of breath. Chest tightness. Coughing. Wheezing.

Grab the inhaler, it’s another asthma attack at work.

According to a new Centers for Disease Control study, the healthcare and social assistance industry has the highest percentage of workers with asthma — 10.7% of workers in this industry reported having asthma.

The study surveyed working adults in 21 states in 2013. Participants were asked about any asthma diagnosis and their occupation and industry.

Lots of asthma triggers are present in healthcare settings, including cleaning chemicals, disinfectants, and aerosolized medications. These substances don’t need to be there — safer alternatives are available.

Employers have a legal obligation to provide a safe and healthy workplace. The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1971 states that “Each employer shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.

As nurses we know, asthma is a physical reaction to substances in the workplace and can cause death or serious physical harm.

If we and other healthcare workers are at increased risk for asthma or any other injury or illness, then hospitals and healthcare facilities cannot be a place for healing.

It is time for healthcare employers to remove asthma triggers from the work environment and thereby promote the health of nurses and other workers, as well as the health of their patients.

Do you suffer from workplace asthma? Tell me your story.