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Treating and Managing Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis

How Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis Is Treated

Once hypersensitivity pneumonitis is diagnosed, if you can identify the allergen that is causing your reaction, the single most important thing you can do is avoid it. Talk to your doctor about steps you will need to take to avoid or eliminate the allergen from your home or workplace. If your illness is caught early, staying away from the source can help completely reverse the damage and, after a short time, your lungs will return to normal.

In more severe cases, avoidance may not be enough. Then, treatment may include corticosteroids or other immunosuppressive medication to reduce inflammation and prevent your immune system from reacting to the allergens you inhale. You may be required to take this medication for up to three months and sometimes longer depending on severity. You may also require supportive therapies such as bronchodilators, which relax your airways to make breathing easier or oxygen therapy, which can raise oxygen levels in your blood.

If you are still experiencing symptoms, your doctor may suspect advanced scarring and recommend a lung transplant. Unfortunately, this is not a cure and patients will still require further care to avoid exposure and ensure that the inflammation does not continue and damage the new lung.

Managing Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis

For people living with chronic hypersensitivity pneumonitis, it is very important to take care of your overall health. This includes staying up-to-date with your vaccinations, eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly. If you are a smoker, quitting smoking will slow the worsening of your disease. Your doctor will want to monitor your condition, so follow-up appointments and testing are normally needed as well.

It is important to pay increased attention to the air you are breathe moving forward. There are many ways you can protect your air at home and address air quality at work concerns. To get you started, here are initial steps to limit further allergen exposure:

  • Allergy-causing bacteria and fungus can thrive in stagnant, or still, water. It can also cause mold to grow. Be sure to remove any standing water inside and outside your home.
  • Take efforts to keep the humidity in your home and work below 50%. A hygrometer, an inexpensive instrument found at hardware stores, can be used to measure humidity indoors.
  • Immediately repair any water damage inside your home or work. This includes removing water-damaged carpeting, furnishings and drywall.
  • Properly maintain your heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.
  • Make sure that the water in heating, air conditioning and ventilation systems is not recirculated.
  • Properly dry and store farm products if you work with them.

Finding Support

The Lung Association recommends patients and caregivers join our Living with Lung Disease Support Community to connect with others facing this disease. You can also call the Lung Association's Lung HelpLine at 1-800-LUNGUSA to talk to a trained respiratory professional who can help answer your questions and connect you with additional support. Ask your healthcare provider about lung disease support groups in your area, or look online for a Better Breathers Club near you.

Reviewed and approved by the American Lung Association Scientific and Medical Editorial Review Panel.

Page last updated: March 12, 2020

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