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GPs have been issued with new guidance urging a proactive approach to identifying occupational causes of asthma.

The British Occupational Health Research Foundation has called for GPs to quiz all new asthma patients about possible occupational exposures in order to prevent irreversible damage from occurring.

It has listed a number of professions at particularly high risk of allergenic exposure including bakers, nurses and animal handlers (see box right).

Dr Hilary Pinnock, a member of the General Practice Airways Group steering committee and a GP in Whitstable, Kent, said: 'If we can reduce the allergen load early on,

occupational asthma can be reversible.

'It could be as simple as putting extractors in the workplace.'

GPs should also ask whether symptoms worsened during the working week and if long holidays improved symptoms, according to the new guidelines.

Occupational

asthma

Consider in patients with the following jobs:

·Animal handlers

·Bakers and pastry makers

·Food processing workers

·Chemical workers

·Nurses

·Paint sprayers

·Timber workers

·Welders

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