There are a number of allergic diseases which may affect the lungs. These diseases are usually caused by the inhalation of some type of material in the patient’s environment. The way in which these materials, called antigens, affect the lungs is complex and may occur acutely or chronically. Either chronic or acute exposure to these antigens may cause serious and irreversible damage to the lungs.

The medical term for the diseases associated with antigen exposures are called hypersensitivity pneumonias. The term pneumonia in this instance does not mean infection but does reflect the inflammation that is going on in the lungs due to the exposures.

Exposure to antigens associated with the farming industry can result in so-called Farmer’s Lung. Bird Fanciers lung is due to exposure to antigens associated with birds such as parrots, pigeons and even chickens.

Some office workers can have exposure to antigens in the humidification systems of the building in which they work. Hot tubs and even swimming pools can be associated with antigens that may cause a hypersensitivity pneumonia.

Symptoms of a hypersensitivity pneumonia include cough, fever, and shortness of breath. The diagnosis is made through careful history taking, laboratory and x-ray evidence but occasionally will require lung biopsy. The treatment will require medications such as prednisone but the main thrust of the therapy is to identify the antigen and remove it from the patient’s environment. This is some times difficult because patients have become attached to a bird or other animal.