Information paper

Work-related asthma - an update for primary health professionals

Exposure to airborne contaminants or adverse conditions at work is an important and preventable cause of asthma and asthma symptoms in adults. About 1 in 4 adults with asthma have asthma that was either caused by their work or is worsened by work conditions.

This is a primary health focused summary paper of a 2020 joint position statement by National Asthma Council Australia and the Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand which warns that work-related asthma is under-recognised and under-reported in Australia.

Key Points

  • Work-related asthma is a common and under-recognised preventable occupational lung disease.
  • Diagnostic investigations for work-related asthma are complex and specialised. Referral to a respiratory physician is recommended as soon as work-related asthma is suspected.
  • Failure to prevent further exposure to a sensitiser or irritant in a patient with established occupational asthma could lead to rapid, irreversible deterioration in lung function.


This information paper was prepared in consultation with the following health professionals:

  • Dr Ian Almond, General Practitioner
  • Dr Ryan Hoy, Respiratory and Sleep Disorders Physician
  • Ms Marg Gordon, Registered Nurse, Asthma and Respiratory Educator

Recommended citation

National Asthma Council Australia. Work-related asthma - an update for primary care health professionals. National Asthma Council Australia; Melbourne: 2020. © 2020 National Asthma Council


Although all care has been taken, this summary paper is a general guide only, which is not a substitute for assessment of appropriate courses of treatment on a case-by-case basis. The National Asthma Council Australia expressly disclaims all responsibility (including for negligence) for any loss, damage or personal injury resulting from reliance on the information contained herein.

© 2020