Occupational Asthma Reference

Kabir T, Schofield S, Fitzgerald B, Cannon J, Szram J, Feary J, Assessment and outcomes of firefighter applicants with possible asthma, Occup Med, 2022;72:118-124,doi.org/10.1093/occmed/kqab162

Keywords: firefighter, asthma, employment, uk, nsbr

Known Authors

Julie Cannon, Royal Brompton Hospital London Julie Cannon

Joanna Szram, Royal Brompton Hospital Joanna Szram

Jo Feary, Royal Brompton Hospital Jo Feary

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Firefighter applicants (FFAs) with a history of asthma may be refused entry to the fire service because of potentially putting themselves and others at risk.

We undertook a service evaluation to identify respiratory and employment outcomes of FFAs with a history of asthma who had undergone additional respiratory assessment at our specialist occupational lung disease clinic during 2005–19.

We reviewed FFA medical records and categorized them as having either no current asthma or definite/probable asthma at the time of clinic assessment. ‘No current asthma’ was defined as negative non-specific bronchial hyper-responsiveness (BHR) to histamine/methacholine, and no symptoms or treatment within the 2 years before clinic. ‘Definite/probable current asthma’ was defined as either positive BHR, or negative BHR with symptoms and/or treatment within the previous 2 years. Around 1 year later, we contacted FFAs to enquire about their application outcome and current respiratory symptoms.

Data were available on 116 applicants; of whom, 45% (n = 52) had definite/probable current asthma and were significantly more likely to be older, atopic to common aeroallergens, report atopic disease and have a lower forced expiratory volume in one second/forced vital capacity ratio compared with applicants with no current asthma. Only two individuals’ applications were rejected due to asthma. At follow-up, just 2 (2%) of the 90 operational firefighters reported any recent trouble with asthma.

A history of asthma alone is not sufficient to determine current asthma in FFAs. Even with a diagnosis of current asthma, FFAs are mostly successful in their application to join the fire service.

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