Asthma at work

Hi all,

I don't know if this counts as occupational asthma or not! I work in an office building in Glasgow and have done for a year and a half. Last summer, my asthma got really bad and I was convinced that there was some sort of trigger at work. I tried to get my boss to get the carpets steam cleaned, as they are only ever vacuumed with a duff old Henry vacuum and don't look clean. It never happened of course. There are some plants in the office, I don't know if these could be a problem, yucca plants and weeping figs.

In the summer, it gets really really hot in here, but a lot of the women complain when the aircon is on. I normally sit with my own wee fan on to try and keep cool each day. I am fine at home, even with our cat and fine outside work. While I'm at my desk in the office though, I feel like I'm breathing through a straw a lot of the day. Anti-histamines have helped over the last couple of days, but I don't know how to approach things with my boss. The people in this office are not understanding at all and when I've had a barking cough in the winter after having a cold, they make comments about catching my asthma etc. So, as you can imagine, I'm very wary of causing a scene. I'm thoroughly fed up though to be honest and have never before had problems like this in an office, any advice would be great?

12 Replies

  • Hi

    Sounds like your really suffering. Do you have an occupational health department?

    If so ring them and ask to speak to someone about it. If not speak to your GP or if your under a hospital consultant them. It needs investigating, if it's left and work is making your asthma worse then you could suffer long term effects from it.

    Try and speak to someone and ask them to investigate with may be allergy testing, peak flow diaries.

    Good luck

    Truly x

  • Thanks Truly, no occupational health at work. It's a small consultancy and so there are not that many people in this office. I've been on new inhalers (seretide) for the last 8months and was keeping a peak flow diary for a while and will start again, as it's getting worse again. I am seeing the doc this week and going to ask to see a chest specialist, but I really don't know how to approach the work issues. I know things are worse when I'm at work and I think this is why I've had to change my inhalers since I started this job.

    My peak flow this week has been about 300 and sometimes marginally above (330 this morning), as I'm still recovering from flu a fortnight ago. But, there is no way it should still be this low when I'm taking prednisolone at the moment surely? My doc didn't want to go down the allergy testing route, as he said it'd probably throw up everything in the book and I can't avoid all things in life. I don't have anything with cows milk in it or cheese, I use goats milk/goats cheese instead.

  • Hi Soph


    Is there any way you could find out when the air con is serviced?


    I've found most 'admin ladies' from 16 - 65, complain about the cold and that's why there's always an old shapeless cardi hanging over the back of their chair. Get to wondering if the cardi is ever taken home to be washed. Guess that's why I've never truly fitted into my various admin roles - wouldn't be seen dead in such a garment. LOL.

    Catching asthma joke 8(

    There aren't many non-asthma people who really understand asthma and the jokes wear a bit thin, don't they? I'm on the other side of the fence now and I sometimes feel I should contact all the sufferers I've not taken seriously over the years and give them a big apology.

    You sound a wee bit down there, Soph, so I'm sending you a virtual hug O

    Hoping you get an answer or at least a point in the right direction soon,

    Grannymo xx

  • The jokes are bit thin like the air reaching my lungs Grannymo, thanks for the hugs. :-)

  • Hi Soph

    Your GP/ chest consultant can put ypur peak flow diary through the Oasys analysis which will tell if your asthma os occupational.

    Get ref to a chest consultant for better advice/ better control. As for allergy testing... you never know what the results may find... it may be that your allegic to nothing or maybe allergic to everything... the only way of finding out os by doing the tests. It may be simple to solve but you need to know all the facts first. We know you can't avoid everything in life but somethings you can if you know about them.

    Truly x

  • asthma at work

    Woul it be possible to get another job, as you know ppl who dont have asthma dont realise how difficult it is to breathe, i dont think the plants will help.

  • Thanks for the replies Allan and truly. Not possible to get another job unfortunately. It took me three years to get one near home!!

    I saw the doc today and he was very reticent about my request to see a consultant. I came away not knowing if he is going to put in a referral. He seems to think that a nasal spray would help me a lot. I'm no convinced. I came away from work yesterday feeling like I'd taken a good beating to the chest it was that sore when I got home. I have been totally fine today not being in the office which is good, as it's let my chest settle some more. This kind of worked against me when I saw the doc this afternoon though, as I sounded fine again. Gah. I need to find a better way of regularly recording my own peak flows electronically or something. I'm very bad at keeping a written record regularly enough to show the doc when the problems are occurring. :-s

    I definitely need to speak to my boss though and try and get through to him that it's a real problem in there.

  • If you want to be taken seriously then you do have to get a good PF record. Try getting readings every day for two weeks, 7am, 10am, 1pm, 4pm, 7pm, 10pm. This will be extremely helpful to your GP/consultant.

    Not wishing to raise undue alarm here, but as well as feeling sore now, there is a small chance that long-term exposure to whatever it is could lead to your lungs becoming even more sensitive so that exposure to any airborne irritant may trigger an attack. Although it might be difficult/inconvienient to get another job now, it would be even harder if your asthma got worse.

  • I'd guess the job may be ok but maybe not for you. Sounds awfully like the story of a friend a year back. Constant neuralgia, particularly in the office.

    I suggested she take a hard look at her work/life (health) balance.

    Result - She resigned and looked around for something else. Neuralgia vanished pretty quickly. Has to travel for new post but oh so happier.

    Its just something to think about, Soph.

  • Hi,

    I have had a fair few problems at work due to lack of understanding of asthma in the workplace so I can sympathise. I am fine at home but seem to have a lot of triggers at work. One such trigger is perfume, if someone sprays near me or is sitting near me wearing strong perfume. I also get set off by the air con changing the temperature in the office quite suddenly, and more recently (despite the fact that we have air con??) they have started opening the windows which then sets me off because of the pollen!!

    So, after a particularly bad attack one day when one lovely person decided it was absolutely neccessary that she douse herself in perfume whilst sitting at her desk I insisted that I see occupational health and that I was given a risk assessment. I had to really go on and on and on to get anything done. In the end the head of health and safety came down, they sent an email out to everyone in the office (there are abput 200 of us) asking that they be aware of my condition and don't use aerosols etc in the office, embarassing but necessary. I was told that at any time I could go and sit in the little medical room to get away from any triggers that may be bothering me etc, I was also introduced to all of the first aiders so they know me if anything goes wrong. I also got some leaflets from this website and took them in for my bosses to make them more aware of my condition.

    Anyhoo, sorry to ramble on!! it's a difficult one and all you can do is make people aware, I also have a spacer with a mask to use at work to prevent me breathing in any irritants when I take my reliever. My team are understanding to a point, I have found my immediate manager not very sympathetic or understanding and it is difficult, i think that you have to persevere in finding the right person to take on board what you are saying and act on it. It's difficult, my boss just smirked at me the other day when i explained that having the windows open was agravating my asthma, you get the impression that they don't believe you. I absolutely sympathise as I have never been on the recieving end of any sort of discrimination until I developed adult asthma 2 years ago, the lack of knowledge, empathy and understanding of such a widespread illness is shocking!

  • Asthma at work

    I do understand how you are feeling. I have been having probs at work with my asthma too. My colleague does not understand at all - even to the point she would admitted at not knowing what to do if I really had a bad attack whilst at work. ( I did of course enlighten her).

    As I work in an office next to orchards where at the moment they are constantly spraying the fruit tree for this and that, and being surrounded by fields of rapeseed. I seem to be fighting a losing battle keeping it under control. I went to see my asthma nurse as I was using ventolin more and more. My ribs hurt, fed up with racking cough. My peak flow 280 and on preds to sort me out.

    My colleague also loves to wear pefume (I am sure she baths in it). She even sorted out 20 year old paperwork that had been gathering dust and spores over the years and could not understand why I was having problems the next day....

    Although I still have some problems at home, it is not as bad as when at work.

    So unfortunately I am going to leave the place - my health comes first.

    I know it is difficult for you and not easy to get another job, but they cannot discriminate you because you have Asthma and I know that does not always work in practise. If you get no joy at getting things sorted perhaps you should think about changing. I really do hope you get somewhere. You take care.

  • Thanks for the replies Krissie and Morello. Morello, I think they all know I have asthma at work, but you are right the lack of knowledge about asthma is terrible and as for empathy. Krissie, your colleague sounds worse than mine!! Changing jobs is just not a possibility. I'm over-qualified for a lot of rolls and there are very few jobs in my speciality that I could get within 50miles of home... Things have improved over the last week, I think because it's been a lot less warm in the office which has helped.

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