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Keywords:

  • work-related asthma;
  • asthma phenotypes;
  • dental workers;
  • risk factors;
  • latex

Abstract

Background

Exposure in the dental environment can increase the risk of respiratory disease in dental healthcare workers (HCWs). This study investigated the prevalence of asthma phenotypes in dental HCWs and associated risk factors.

Methods

A cross-sectional study of 454 dental HCWs in five dental institutions in South Africa was conducted. A self-administered questionnaire elicited the health and employment history of subjects. Sera was analyzed for atopic status and latex sensitization. Pre- and post-bronchodilator spirometry was performed.

Results

The prevalence of atopic asthma was 6.9%, non-atopic asthma 5.9% and work-exacerbated asthma (WEA) 4.0%. Atopy and work-related ocular-nasal symptoms were strong predictors of WEA (OR: 3.4; 95% CI: 1.07–10.8; OR: 6.7, 95% CI: 2.4–19.1), respectively. Regular use of personal protective equipment (PPE) was associated with a protective affect (OR: 0.23, 95% CI: 0.1–0.7) among non-atopic asthmatics, while glove use and respiratory protection was protective among atopic asthmatics (OR: 0.39, 95% CI: 0.17–0.89).

Conclusion

Identification of risk factors associated with specific asthma phenotypes in dental HCWs can be used to focus preventive strategies for asthmatics. Am. J. Ind. Med. 56:90–99, 2013. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.