Healthcare workers (HCWs) are exposed to a range of high and low molecular weight agents that are allergic sensitisers or irritants, including cleaners and disinfectants, natural rubber latex, and various medications. Studies have shown that exposed HCWs are at risk for work-related rhinitis and asthma (WRA). Work-related rhinitis may precede development of WRA and should be considered as an early marker of WRA.
Avoidance of causative exposures through control strategies such as elimination, substitution, engineering controls, and process modification is the preferred primary prevention strategy for preventing development of work-related allergic diseases. There is limited evidence for the effectiveness of respirators in preventing occupational asthma. If sensitizer-induced WRA is diagnosed, it is important to avoid further exposure to the causative agent, preferably by more rigorous application of exposure control strategies to the workplace. This review from Mazurek and Weissman focuses on allergic occupational respiratory diseases in HCWs.