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Thursday, December 5, 2013
Asthma and the Workplace
At my work, we`re getting ready to move into a building that was previously used by a heavy smoker who smoked indoors. Even though no one will be smoking now, the building still smells. Having asthma with smoke (and particulates) as triggers, I`m worried I`ll have an asthma attack. Should I be concerned?
Passive smoke is an irritant that exacerbates symptoms in many patients with asthma. Fortunately, you will be work in a nonsmoking environment. I do not think that residual particulates will be a significant problem if the room is adequately ventilated, and has or will be cleaned thoroughly prior to your use (you might ask if the air filters can be changed as well). Strong odors such as colognes and perfumes may exacerbate symptoms in some patients but their effect is difficult to quantify. If smoking will not be continued, the odor you describe in your workplace will likely diminish with cleaning and time as well. Thus, I would not be overly concerned at this time. Since I do not know the severity of your asthma, you may find it comforting to at least notify the physician responsible for your care about the impending change. Your physician should definitely be contacted if you feel your symptoms are worsening.
Dennis McGraw, MD
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati