It was in the early days of my practice when an asthmatic patient consulted as he was finding the symptoms troublesome. He was using an inhaler but had frequent episodes of worsening symptoms, and it was becoming difficult for him to work. The clue came when he said that he felt better during long weekends and when on holiday.
He was an engineer in charge of maintaining instruments in a factory. He knew all machines and equipment inside out and thus was extremely valuable because of his experience. Exploring details of his work revealed that he experienced attacks when he repaired an instrument or other equipment. He confirmed my suspicion when he stated that using soldering iron and flux triggered an attack.
His employer didn’t want to place him in any other department, nor did he want to do anything other than look after his beloved instruments.
Taking a cue from workstations designed for preparing chemotherapy medication for cancer patients, I proposed a worktable design which would enable him to do the work he loved, yet avoid having to inhale fumes which triggered the exacerbation.
It consisted of a glass top and sides where he could see everything; on the front there were holes for the arms so that he could hold things. A small extractor fan removed the fumes from the worktable into an exhaust leading out of the building.
This simple arrangement worked beautifully for both the engineer and the employer. He was able to achieve control of asthma, while his inhaler use dropped. Reduced inhaler use also meant a reduction in costs.