Industrial bronchitis

Definition

Industrial bronchitis is swelling (inflammation) of the large airways of the lungs that occurs in some people who work around certain dusts, fumes, smoke, or other substances.

See also: Bronchitis

Alternative Names

Occupational bronchitis

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Exposure to dusts, fumes, strong acids, and other chemicals in the air causes this type of bronchitis. Smoking may also contribute. Employers are required to have copies of material safety data sheets available in the workplace.

You may be at risk if you are exposed to dusts that contain:

  • Asbestos
  • Coal
  • Cotton
  • Flax
  • Latex
  • Metals
  • Silica
  • Talc
  • Toluene diisocyanate
  • Western red cedar

Symptoms

Signs and tests

The health care provider will listen to your lungs using a stethoscope. Wheezing sounds or crackles may be heard.

Tests include:

Treatment

The purpose of treatment is to reduce the irritation.

Getting more air into the workplace or wearing masks to filter out the offending dust particles may help. Some people may need to be taken out of the workplace.

Some cases of industrial bronchitis go away without treatment. Other times, a person may need inhaled anti-inflammatory medications. If you are at risk or have experienced this problem and you smoke, stop smoking.

Helpful measures include:

  • Breathing humidified air
  • Increasing fluid intake
  • Resting

Expectations (prognosis)

The outcome may be good as long as you can stop being exposed to the irritant. Chronic disability from industrial bronchitis is rare.

Complications

Continued exposure to irritating gases, fumes, or other substances can lead to permanent lung damage.

Calling your health care provider

Call your health care provider if you are regularly exposed to dusts, fumes, strong acids, or other chemicals that can affect the lungs and you develop symptoms of bronchitis.

Prevention

Control dust in industrial settings by wearing face masks and protective clothing, and treating textiles. Stop smoking if you are at risk.

Get early screening by a doctor if you are exposed to chemicals that can cause this condition.

Figures

References

Chan-Yeung M, Malo JL. Asthma in the workplace and occupational asthma. In: Mason RJ, Broaddus VC, Martin TR, et al, eds. Murray and Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2010:chap 64.

Samet JM. Occupational pulmonary disorders. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders; 2007:chap 93.

Revision

Last reviewed 6/2/2011 by David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; and Denis Hadjiliadis, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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