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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:

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.

You may be at risk if you are exposed to dusts such as:

  • Asbestos
  • Coal
  • Cotton
  • Flax
  • Silica
  • Talc

Symptoms

Signs and tests

The health care provider will listen to the lungs using a stethoscope. Wheezing sounds 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 air particles may help. 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.

Supportive measures include:

  • Breathing humidified air
  • Increased fluid intake
  • Rest

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 could 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.

References

Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders; 2008.

Review Date: 4/24/2009
Reviewed By: Allen J. Blaivas, DO, Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine UMDNJ-NJMS, Attending Physician in the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine, Department of Veterans Affairs, VA New Jersey Health Care System, East Orange, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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