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Int Arch Occup Environ Health. 2002 Jun;75(5):326-31. Epub 2002 Mar 22.

Chemosensory irritation and the lung.

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  • 1Institute and Outpatient Clinic for Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Ludwig-Maximilians-University, Ziemssenstrasse 1, 80336 M√ľnchen, Germany.


Airway irritation involves a variety of reflex mechanisms. Tracheal and bronchial C fibres and rapidly adapting fibres mediate cough, bronchoconstriction, and mucosal vasodilation. Workplace respiratory irritants can have a variety of effects in relation to asthma. Very high exposures can cause new-onset asthma, clinically presenting as reactive airways dysfunction syndrome or irritant-induced asthma. Symptoms after exposure to irritants depend on aggregate characteristics, water solubility and dose. Measurement of pulmonary function in response to irritants includes baseline spirometry, monitoring of across-shift changes and changes in non-specific bronchial responsiveness as well as bronchial responsiveness to inhaled allergens. Following irritant exposure, inflammatory changes within the airways are monitored by bronchoalveolar lavage or - less invasively - by sputum markers. A completely non-invasive approach not limited in repeatability is the investigation of inflammatory markers in exhaled air. However, the diagnostic and prognostic values of these novel markers have still to be demonstrated.

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