The disease known as the “farmer’s lung”, caused by exposure to the fungus which often lives in a musty hay or wheat, attacks only people who are allergic to the fungus. Since this allergy, such as pneumoconiosis, causes pneumonia, from which the airways narrow and thicken the walls of the alveoli, farmer’s lung is sometimes called pneumoconiosis organic. Similar allergic reaction to some sort of fungi occurs among workers who work with malt, mushrooms and other substances, as well as among people who work with laboratory animals, among people who work with pigeons or people whose the work is closely related to birds (fungi often grow in a bird feces).
The main symptom is shortness of breath that occurs several hours after exposing to allergen and usually disappears after a few hours. Shortness of breath is usually accompanied by a dry cough. Symptoms may oocur, such as fever, chills and headache, so the doctor usually mixes farmer’s lungs with persistent or frequent flu.
Farmer’s lung and similar allergic reactions are rare because people who suffer from them are only a small percentage of those who are in constant contact with moldy substances that cause symptoms.
It often happens that the patient does not reveal the real cause of the symptoms, which keep coming back, and is still exposed to the allergen causing his condition significantly deteriorating. If not treated for a long time, pneumonia will destroy lung tissue elastic, and stiff, scarred tissue may occur. The result is permanent, increasing shortness of breath, which can lead to dangerous conditions such as respiratory failure or cardiac decompensation.
What to do?
Contact your doctor if you frequently lose your breath, but if you are often exposed to substances that can cause farmer’s lung, do not forget to mention that. Diagnostic tests will consist of X-ray lung and skin tests. Your doctor may ask you to exhale into the spirometer to see how well are your lungs doing.
Self-help: avoid further exposure to the allergen. Change the workplace, if you can. If this is not possible, at least wear a protective mask over your nose and mouth whenever you expose to a certain substance. In most cases, a second treatment is not necessary. If you are not exposed to an allergen, shortness of breath will probably disappear and you will recover in a few weeks.
Professional help: if you have farmer’s lung for some time, treatment will be much more difficult than in the initial stage. Your treatment will probably be most successful with corticosteroid tablets that will take for several months. Your doctor will gradually reduce high initial dose by giving you fewer pills or will prescribe medicines with lower doses.