Treatment For Farmer's lung

The disease known as farmer's lung is caused by frequent exposure to a fungus that grows in moldy hay or grain. It attacks only people who are allergic to the fungus. The allergy causes lung inflammation that narrows the air passages and thickens the alveoli walls. The effects of the disease are similar to those of pneumoconiosis (previous article), so it is sometimes called organic pneumoconiosis. A similar allergic reaction to certain kinds of fungus occurs among workers who deal with malt, mushrooms, and several other substances. Another similar disorder affects people who handle animals in laboratories, and pigeon breeders or others who have frequent contact with birds of various kinds. The fungi that cause this disorder may be particularly numerous in the droppings of the animals involved.

What are the Symptoms?

The main symptom of farmer's lung is breathlessness. This becomes troublesome a few hours after you have been exposed to the fungus. It generally goes away after another few hours. The breathlessness is usually accompanied by a dry cough. Since you may also have symptoms such as fever, chills and headache, you may mistake farmer's lung for persistent, recurring influenza or may even think that it is asthma.

What are the Risks?

Farmer's lung and similar allergic reactions are rare, since only a small proportion of the people who are in constant contact with the fungi are susceptible to the disorder.

If you do get it, however, and do not discover the true cause of the constantly recurring symptoms, you may continue to be exposed to the fungus. Then your condition will probably get worse. When it is untreated over a long period, any inflammation of the lungs can destroy the elastic lung tissue, which is then replaced by stiff scar tissue. The result is a permanent, progressive breathlessness, which can lead to respiratory failure and heart failure , both of which can be fatal.

What should be Done?

Consult your physician if you have repeated attacks of breathlessness. If you are frequently exposed to any substance that can cause farmer's lung, be sure to tell your doctor. You will probably need to have a chest X-ray so that your physician can establish the nature and extent of the disease.

What is the Treatment?

Self-help: A void further exposure to the fungus. Change your job if possible. Otherwise, wear a protective mask over your nose and mouth whenever you may be exposed to the substance. In most cases no other treatment is necessary.

Professional help: If you have had the condition for some time, it may be much more difficult to treat than it is in earlier stages. The most effective treatment may be steroid drugs, taken for several months.