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Man using woodworking tools mindful dust can trigger his asthma

Asthma and Work: Good Days and Bad Days

Reading time | 3 mins
Working a physical job with asthma can have its challenges. Carpenter Jamie shares his experiences. 


So, working in a physical job with asthma - how does that work then? I guess it’s the same for me as it is for anyone working with asthma, right? Good days, bad days, some days you don’t even notice it and some days you definitely do.

I’m a self-employed builder, a carpenter by trade and I mostly install fitted furniture: kitchens, bathrooms, bedrooms and home offices, with bedroom wardrobes making up around 80% of my yearly workload.

It’s challenging but enjoyable

And it’s good, I enjoy what I do and there’s a good amount of job satisfaction at the end of it, which is great. The product I install is pretty high-end and it’s nice seeing a design come to life. What I don’t enjoy are small rooms and stairs. Sounds funny right, but obviously most people have wardrobes in their bedrooms and most people’s bedrooms are upstairs - and can often be on the small side. This means that I have to get all of the materials:  panels, doors, tools etc. up the stairs into that room before I can even start work.

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 furniture into the room it’s being fitted in, unloading all of the tools and only then finally fitting the furniture (which can take anything from five hours to five days, depending on the job). Once the installation is complete I then 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.

Good days and bad days

So how does my asthma fair with a dusty work environment and seemingly endless trips up and down the stairs, carrying large panels and heavy tool boxes? On the whole it’s mostly okay. As I mentioned above, every asthma sufferer will have good and bad days depending on the severity of their condition, their triggers and generally what they are up to on a daily basis. If I rock up to work and feel like I’m having a bad asthma day, then I know I’m going to be taking it a bit easier that day. Particularly when I’m unloading, I’d make sure to take a rest here and there so I don’t feel as though I’m getting out of breath.

Keeping the workspace clean

Dust is an asthma trigger for many, including me, so I have to make sure I manage that also.  I use a dust extractor that attaches to my power tools to keep the air clear. 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 keep the room and my workspace clean, and a face mask if I feel I need that little bit of extra protection.

Don’t get me wrong, some days I get pretty stressed out with it. There’s a lot of different parts and some tricky work with bespoke furniture. It can be especially stressful when there’s a lot to do in a short space of time and I’m having to sit there, a sweaty, breathless mess, forced to take a break to get my breathing back to normal. On good days though, I can be done unloading before I’ve even thought about my asthma.  

The takeaway

All in all, I feel confident that I’m able to manage my symptoms and triggers. I know that as long as I stay on top of this asthma thing, I can continue with my physically demanding career, just as long as I take as many breaks as I need to get the job done.

NPS-IE-NP-00349 December 2021