An environmental illness is a set of symptoms or a disease caused
by chemicals, fumes, pollution, allergens, viruses, or toxins or physical
hazards found in the environment. Exposure to toxic chemicals or other hazards may occur in the
home, workplace, or community.
Common symptoms, including headache, cough, fatigue, and nausea,
will vary according to the amount and type of exposure. Environmental illnesses
may be difficult to diagnose. And they are sometimes mistaken for other illnesses.
Symptoms may occur suddenly and disappear when exposure to the
substance ends, such as when dust, cigarette smoke, or pet dander triggers an
asthma attack. Sometimes symptoms may not develop for years, which can occur
after exposure to cancer-causing chemicals.
The first treatment for an environmental illness includes getting rid of
or reducing exposure to the things causing the illness. Additional treatment
is based on the specific symptoms and part of the body that is affected.
September 23, 2011
Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine & Peter Rabinowitz, MD, MPH - Occupational and Environmental Medicine
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