Purpose of review: Classically, the specific occupational challenge test has been considered as the reference test in the diagnosis of occupational asthma. The present study assesses the usefulness of this test for diagnosing this disease and compares it with other diagnostic methods.
Recent findings: Occupational asthma is the most frequent work-related respiratory disease in developed countries. Its correct diagnosis is vitally important not only from the medical point of view, but also in view of the disease's major socio-economic repercussions both for the patient and for society as a whole. Diagnosis is based on clinical suspicion of bronchial asthma and of a possible association with the patient's occupation. Various diagnostic strategies have been proposed, including clinical history, immunological test, spirometry, the study of peak flow, the methacholine test and the specific occupational challenge test, as well as studies of bronchial inflammation using noninvasive methods.
Summary: The specific occupational challenge test remains the reference test for the diagnosis of occupational asthma for causal agents of both high and low molecular weight.