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Julie's Story

Meet Julie. Julie had work-related asthma. She was working in a bakery at the time. Watch the video clip below to hear her story and to see how her story relates to you.

Julie had been recently seen in an asthma clinic. So, we became interested in her story…

Hello Julie, tell us briefly about yourself and your recent experience in the asthma clinic…

I'm 29 years old and I work in a bakery.

I went to the asthma clinic because of increasing shortness of breath. It started about 6 months after I started working in the bakery.

I had previously had very mild asthma before this job but never really needed my blue reliever puffer, except when I had a cold.

Do you have a history of previous allergies and do you smoke?

No, actually I never had any previous hay fever or eczema and I have no allergies to the environment like pollens, trees, dusts. Also I don't smoke and never have.

How did your asthma change after starting your new job?

Well, I noticed that I started getting these attacks of cough, wheezing, and even chest tightness whenever I was working with certain types of flour. At first, it was mild and didn't interfere with my ability to work, so I didn't do anything about it.

But, after a while I realized that this was my asthma, and it continued to get worse. The symptoms became continuous throughout the workday, and I noticed that they would even get worse as the week progressed or later in the week.

Did you notice that the symptoms were only at work, or also at home?

Actuallty, it was funny - I would always be much better as soon as I left work. I also noticed that these symptoms were much less severe on weekends and holidays. My friends would tease me that I was allergic to work! That being said, in the last month or so I started noticing some symptoms at home as well, and I started waking up in the middle of the night with the same symptoms.

What were these symptoms?

I had nasal stuffiness, sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes, and I noticed shortness of breath whenever I would exert myself, and tightness in my chest and coughing when I laughed.

What made you self-conscious about your situation?

My co-workers started commenting on my cough and difficulty breathing at work, and this made me self-conscious. They said that in the past, some other workers in our bakery had had very similar respiratory symptoms.

What happened next?

I finally saw my family doctor about 2 months later. By then, I was a lot worse. I guess I should have gone in earlier. I was even short of breath climbing the flight of stairs to get to my bedroom by then.

When I saw my doctor, he thought it was my asthma, so he referred me to this specialized asthma clinic. He asked me to take my orange steroid inhaler regularly - I think it's called FLOVENT, and also the blue ventolin reliever inhaler whenever I had symptoms at work or at home, which was quite often at that point.

What was the diagnosis?

I had some tests arranged by the asthma clinic and they told me that I developed a sensitivity to the wheat in the flour at work, which was causing my asthma to get worse.

This can happen in people who have never previously had asthma and is then referred to as occupational asthma. The same allergic process can be a cause of worsening asthma in bakers who already have asthma.

Due to this problem, she had to stop working as a baker. Her asthma and her nose and eye symptoms cleared completely and she was able to stop her medications, except as before, she continued to use a reliever inhaler whenever she had a cold. She applied for and received support from workers' compensation until she found a new job.


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