Breathing Easier

TAU finds that exertion at work and play can trigger deadly asthma attacks

Photo: Dr. Shlomo Moshe, Tel Aviv University
Dr. Shlomo Moshe

If you’re an asthma sufferer, make sure the medical history at your doctor’s office includes your employment and recreation plans. A new screening tool developed by Tel Aviv University researchers may save you a trip to the emergency room later on.

It has long been suspected that physical exertion itself, as part of work or play, can trigger an asthma attack, but little medical evidence has been found for this conclusion ― until now. A study by Dr. Shlomo Moshe from Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine gives doctors a new way of advising those who may be at risk.

Dr. Moshe’s research, reported in Occupational Medicine, will also help young asthmatic adults find safer and more suitable employment. It could also save lives.

America’s New Epidemic

Asthma now reaches epidemic proportions in America and has become the leading chronic disease in children. Eleven people die from the condition daily, and about 40,000 people miss school or work due to asthma, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Asthma, an inflammation of the air passages that narrows the transport of air to the lungs, can be treated by inhalers, but it can never be cured.

“The diagnosis of asthma is increasing in the western world. Some say it’s because of genetics, pollution, and more accurate diagnostic tools,” says Dr. Moshe. “I tried to tackle what happens from the occupational hazards side. Under what conditions do young adults develop asthmatic attacks? How can doctors better recognize this under-diagnosed disease?”

A Butcher, a Baker, a Candlestick Maker?

Doctors should be aware of the risk level for asthma in young adult patients, Dr. Moshe says. “Using our recent research, we have developed a tool that gives both percentages and risks. If you had asthma in childhood, you can certainly develop it again. Family physicians need to know that certain jobs can be risky to their patients. If a patient wants to be a pro-football player, a baker, a carpenter, or a technician in an animal laboratory, his doctor needs to advise him accordingly.”

Dr. Moshe’s most recent research, which follows upon an earlier study, finds an indisputable connection between asthma and exercise. “When young adults start their first job, they should be aware of the pulmonary risks,” says Dr. Moshe, whose research covered nearly 800 young recruits to the Israel Defense Forces. “Exercise and sports like football do cause asthmatic attacks. Logically, that should be considered if someone wants to do a job which includes physical exertion, like being a guard, taking part in competitive sports, or working in a factory on heavy machinery.”

Dr. Moshe’s new work builds on a 1999 study which covered 60,000 subjects. The research evaluated the risks of people who had asthma in childhood and the risks for its later re-emergence as these subjects entered the adult workforce. His research is widely used in America and cited by physicians in an American Army training guide.

Dr. Moshe is an occupational physician who works in a clinic for Israel’s Macabee Health Services. At Tel Aviv University, he is a lecturer at the Sackler Faculty of Medicine and also lectures regularly in America and around the world about safe occupational practices connected to asthma, allergies and epilepsy.

 

 

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