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Acute Silicosis in the Workplace

People breathe, on the average, 25000 times in one day. Therefore, in a regular day in the office or in the workplace, workers breathe in air for about 8000 times. It’s no wonder that if a worker is heavily exposed to crystalline silica dust, silicosis can develop in as short as 5 weeks.

It is therefore imperative for employers to follow government strict regulations on companies that produce inhalable silica dust in the workplace. Employees should also take an active part in reminding their employers to comply with laws on safety and sanitation. Check if the workplace has at least the primary prevention tools such as water sprays or dry air filters.

Acute Silicosis Symptoms

We already have identified about 40 types of pulmonary diseases and the common symptoms are the following: chronic chest pain, wheezing, shortness of breath, chronic coughing and bloody sputum discharge. These symptoms are also common with acute silicosis but victims usually have fever and bluish skin. Employers should seek immediate verification from a physician because acute silicosis symptoms are quite similar with that of tuberculosis, pulmonary edema or pneumonia.

Prevention

Employers must provide their workers with the right equipment and clothing. Also, they are required by law to make their employees undergo regular lung examination. Some more preventive strategies are the following:

  • Keep your workers away from places where dust accumulates (as much as possible). Remember, even if you can’t see silica dust be ever-conscious that it’s there. These are very minute particles.
  • Use tools that are capable of producing water while in use. You can buy drills and saws that add water to the blade or the tool’s stem.
  • Use respirators to block silica dust from getting near the nose. Do not allow workers with long beards or mustaches to enter dangerous areas. Choose tight-fitting respirators. The right type depends on two factors: the type of job and the amount of dust being produced normally.
  • Prohibit eating, drinking and smoking in dusty places and constantly remind your workers to wash hands after leaving the work area. When heading back home after a day’s work, workers should change clothing in order not to endanger their families.

Treatments — The Irreversible Nature of the Disease

Take heed because the silicosis cannot be cured. At best, the disease can be treated only to prevent further complications and alleviating its symptoms. The following treatments and preventive measures can be applied:

  • Stop further exposure at once. Smoking should be completely stopped.
  • Use cough suppressants and antibiotics to fight lung infection caused by bacteria.
  • Undergo IGRA test for blood and tuberculin test for skin. If one of these tests turns positive, TB prophylaxis is recommended. For people with active TB, a prolonged treatment is needed.
  • Hypoxemia may develop. If it does, the patient needs administration of oxygen.
  • Bronchial mucus should be drained continuously. The patient must undergo regular chest physiotherapy. The physician may also recommend using bronchodilators to ease up breathing.

Lung transplantation where damaged tissue is replaced has been found to be the most effective treatment, albeit there are also risks that go with this procedure.

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