Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

What are the Symptoms of Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis?

The symptoms of an attack are similar to those of the flu and appear some 4-6 hours after the person breathes the dust. They include:

  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Dry cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tight feeling in the chest
  • Tiredness

The symptoms may last for as little as 12 hours or as long as 10 days. Between attacks you may have no symptoms and feel quite normal.

After repeated exposure to the dust, these symptoms may occur:

  • Chronic cough with a lot of phlegm containing pus
  • Shortness of breath
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss

How is Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis Detected?

Your doctor will take a careful, detailed medical history to match your dust exposure to your symptoms. Your doctor will also do a physical exam and listen to your lungs with a stethoscope. One sign of hypersensitivity pneumonitis is abnormal lung sounds called crackles.

Tests may include:

  • Blood tests
  • Tests of molds from your workplace
  • Chest x-ray
  • CT scan of the chest
  • Lung function tests
  • Challenge test, in which you inhale the materials to which you are sensitive to test your reaction
  • Lung biopsy

How is Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis Treated?

Avoiding the dust that causes the disease is the single most important thing you can do because in the early stages the disease is completely reversible.

Most drugs are not very effective in treatment. Antihistamines and bronchodilators do not work. Steroids can relieve the symptoms of attacks of hypersensitivity pneumonitis but do not cure the disease. Recovery from attacks may take as long as three weeks.

If you have the disease and are a smoker, now is the time to quit. Cigarette smoking may worsen symptoms of the disease. Smokers with hypersensitivity pneumonitis are likely to get complicating lung diseases, such as emphysema, chronic bronchitis, or lung cancer.


Learn about preventing Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis