Work-associated irritable larynx syndrome

R. F. Hoy, Ruy M. Ribeiro, J. Anderson, Susan M. Tarlo

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Background: Work-associated respiratory symptoms may be caused by disorders of both the lower and upper respiratory tract. We propose that occupational exposures may initiate and/or trigger recurrent hyperkinetic laryngeal symptoms, predominantly episodic dyspnoea, dysphonia, cough and sensation of tension in the throat-work-associated irritable larynx syndrome (WILS). Aims: To examine characteristics of individual and work-related factors that are associated with WILS, occupational asthma (OA) and work-exacerbated asthma (WEA). Methods: Subjects with WILS, OA and WEA were identified from an occupational lung disease clinic. A review of 448 charts of patients attending the clinic between 2002 and 2006 was undertaken, with information entered onto a standardized abstraction form. Results: Fifty subjects were identified withOA, 40 withWEAand 30 with WILS. Subjects with the diagnosis of WILS were more likely to be female and more frequently reported symptoms of gastro-oesophageal reflux. The most common triggers of workplace symptoms in the WILS group were odours, fumes, perfumes and cleaning agents. Fourteen patients with WILS identified a specific precipitating event at the workplace at the time of the onset of their symptoms and five of these subjects presented to an emergency department within 24 h of the event. Conclusions: Dysfunction of the upper airway is an important cause of work-associated respiratory symptoms. The identification and management of WILS requires a multidisciplinary approach with a focus on modifying work-related and intrinsic factors that may perpetuate symptoms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)546-551
Number of pages6
JournalOccupational Medicine
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Irritable larynx
  • Laryngeal dysfunction
  • Occupation
  • Occupational asthma
  • Work related
  • Work-exacerbated asthma

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