1. Life Effects
  2. Patient and caregiver stories
  3. Working a Physical Job with Asthma: Managing Symptoms and Avoiding Triggers

Working a Physical Job with Asthma: Managing Symptoms and Avoiding Triggers

Getty Images / eclipse_images

Working a physical job with asthma is entirely possible, provided you take the proper precautions and ensure a safe working environment. Today, Jamie Saunders celebrates his success as a carpenter and overcoming obstacles with his respiratory condition.

Remember, as with any physical activity, paying attention to your limits is crucial. If you have worsening symptoms or find it difficult to control your asthma at work, please consult your healthcare provider.

So, having a physical job with asthma - how does that work then? I guess it's the same for me as anyone working with asthma. Even consistent asthma control at work can mean good days and bad days. Some days you don't even notice it, and some days you definitely do.

I'm a self-employed builder and carpenter by trade, so it's up to me to make workplace accommodations for my asthma. I mainly install fitted furniture: kitchens, bathrooms, bedrooms and home offices, with bedroom wardrobes making up around 80% of my workload.

Physical work with asthma is a challenge, but I love it

It's good. I enjoy being a carpenter, and there's a good amount of job satisfaction at the end, which is great. The product I install is pretty high-end, and seeing a design come to life is nice.

What I don't enjoy are the small rooms and stairs. Sounds funny, right? But obviously, most people have wardrobes in their bedrooms, and most people's bedrooms are upstairs - and they can often be on the small side. This means I have to get all the materials: panels, doors, tools etc., up the stairs into that room before I can start the actual work. The physical labour of hauling everything around can sometimes be too much for my asthma.

In a nutshell, a typical day for me will begin with me loading the van with the furniture in the morning, driving to the customer's address, unloading the furnishings into the room they're needed in, unloading all the tools and only then fitting the furniture (which can take anything from five hours to five days, depending on the job).

If you’ve ever moved house with asthma, my job is like doing that every day!

Once the installation is complete, I need to get all the tools back into the van, load up the rubbish and boom! I'm off home, ready for the next job the following day.

The good days and bad days working with asthma

So how does my asthma fare at work? It can be tough with a dusty work environment, seemingly endless trips up and down the stairs, and carrying large panels and heavy toolboxes. On the whole, though, it's okay.

You'll have bad and maybe not good, but better than bad times with asthma at work. Many challenges tied with asthma and a physical job, such as carpentry, depend on the severity of your condition, your triggers, and your day-to-day responsibilities.

If I feel like I'm having a bad day with asthma at work, I know to take it easier for the rest of my shift. When I'm unloading, for example, I'll make sure to take a rest here and there so I don't overexert my lungs and feel I'm getting out of breath.

My asthma management strategy is simple: minimise my triggers

Dust is an asthma trigger for many, including me, so I must asthma-proof my environment as much as possible. I limit my dust exposure by using an extractor to clear the air.

Sweeping up with a dustpan and brush is no good as this pushes the dust particles into the air, which can exacerbate my asthma. Instead, I use a vacuum cleaner to tidy the room and minimise triggers in my workspace.

On days when dust gathers faster than I can get rid of it, I wear a face mask for extra respiratory protection.

Don't get me wrong, I get pretty stressed out some days. There are many different parts and some tricky work with bespoke furniture. Too much exertion, heat, dust, and special chemicals can all become asthma hazards.

And stress can cause an asthma flare, too, especially when there’s a lot to do in a short time. Sometimes, I can’t do anything but sit there as a sweaty, breathless mess, forced to take a break to get my breathing back to normal.

On the better days, though, I can be done unloading before I've even thought about my asthma.

The takeaway

After years of experience, I'm confident about managing my asthma at work. I can continue my physically demanding career if I stay on top of controlling my symptoms and triggers. I'm fine as long as I can take as many breaks as I need to complete the job. That's one of the perks of being self-employed!

© 2023 Life Effects by Teva Pharmaceuticals

The individual(s) who have written and created the content in and whose images appear in this article have been paid by Teva Pharmaceuticals for their contributions. This content represents the opinions of the contributor and does not necessarily reflect those of Teva Pharmaceuticals. Similarly, Teva Pharmaceuticals does not review, control, influence or endorse any content related to the contributor's websites or social media networks. This content is intended for informational and educational purposes and should not be considered medical advice or recommendations. Consult a qualified medical professional for diagnosis and before beginning or changing any treatment regimen​. 

This site is intended for UK and Ireland residents only.

Date of preparation: August 2023
D: COB-GB-NP-00142 (V1.0) / T: COB-GB-NP-00170 (V1.0) / M: COB-GB-NP-00169 (V1.0)

I found this article:

Share this article:

You might also be interested in...