Farmer's lung, also known as extrinsic allergic alveolitis, attacks the lungs and prevents them from functioning normally. Emedicine.com reveals that reports of farmer's lung date back to the early 1700s and incidences continue up until modern day, often affecting farmers who work in damp, cold conditions. The chances of developing farmer's lung is increased during the spring and winter months when mould spores are more prevalent. The allergic reaction that results from the farmer's lung condition is not curable and treatment involves reducing the symptoms.
According to the Farm Safety Association, Inc., farmer's lung is caused by the inhalation of mouldy residues found on hay, grain and straw. The infectious mould is caused by wet crop material that is stored away before it dries out. When the materials do dry out and are later moved, fine dust particles that contain the mould enter the air and can be breathed in.
Acute allergic reactions that are caused by farmer's lung often mimic the flu and usually include fever and chills, runny nose, muscle fatigue and pain, and sometimes depression. The UHL Hygienic Laboratory at the University of Iowa explains that headaches and coughing are usually associated with farmer's lung as well as, shortness of breath. A single allergic attack of farmer's lung has a normal duration of approximately 12 days, but may last as long as two weeks. Severe attacks that require a hospital stay can last for 12 weeks or more.
The Lung Association recommends seeing your doctor if you think you have been exposed to the mould that causes farmer's lung and become symptomatic. A blood test will need to be performed in order to determine if you have the illness. Other tests must also be administered in order to confirm the diagnosis such as, a breathing capacity measurement and X-ray of the lungs.
Farmer's lung allergic reactions that are acute are usually treated with medication and mould avoidance. However, chronic symptoms, such as weight loss, fatigue, prolonged fever and severe difficulties breathing, may warrant hospitalisation. According to the Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment station, severe symptoms of farmer's lung will need to be treated with oxygen therapy, bed rest and large doses of corticosteroid medications.
Certain precautions should be taken to avoid developing farmer's lung. Virginia State University Extension explains that limiting exposure and wearing a respirator can help. Working outside whenever the situation allows and ensuring proper ventilation can also help limit the amount of mould that is inhaled. Also, using fans and filtration systems can help remove mould spores from the air.