The interface of otolaryngology with occupational medicine

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The field of otolaryngology and head and neck surgery and the study of occupational disorders share a common interface-the upper aerodigestive tract and related structures. The reaction of the nasal mucosa to allergens, pollutants, and toxicants may lie with those cells whose primary response is protective; however, the generalized response within the nasal vasculature may be problematic. Environmental and occupational control of allergens and pollutants requires close attention to elimination, avoidance, and counteraction, all based on the foundation of proper identification of the source of irritation. Many workers in the United States find themselves in office buildings that are inherently unhealthy owing to poor ventilation and cleaning. Still others are in more serious occupational environments, such as the woodworking and leather-tanning industries where carcinogenesis, rather than allergy and inflammation, is the primary concern. Even in the health industry, risks are present for the otolaryngologist and his or her staff. Latex allergy, especially to gloves, may occur in association with other allergic symptoms, including allergic rhinitis. Cocaine has been found to absorb directly through the skin in otolaryngologists who apply it without gloves, and urine samples can be positive for up to 18 hours. Vigilance and a high index of suspicion should be the tasks of our specialty when dealing with possible occupational disorders of the upper aerodigestive tract.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)59-61
Number of pages3
JournalCurrent Opinion in Otolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 2 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Otorhinolaryngology


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