Farmer’s lung is a serious respiratory condition also known as hypersensitivity pneumonitis. It affects people whose immune system is sensitive to fungal spores inhaled from:
- Mouldy hay
Farmer’s lung is different from farmer’s fever (ODTS – Organic Dust Toxic Syndrome) because it involves an allergic immune response that leads to inflammation and permanent tissue damage in the terminal airways of the lung. Some agricultural industries and exposure associated with HP include:
- farming (‘farmer’s lung’, ‘mushroom worker’s lung’)
- bird or poultry handling (‘bird breeder/fancier’s lung’)
- grain processing (wheat weevil disease)
The symptoms of farmer’s lung can last from 12 hours to 10 days. Symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath
- Tight feeling in the chest
For those farmers who are sensitive, repeated exposure to the allergic trigger can lead to more severe symptoms such as chronic cough with phlegm containing pus, shortness of breath, loss of appetite and weight loss. Lung scarring (fibrosis) can occur in the later stages of the disease which greatly impacts respiratory health and cause difficulty breathing.
Farmer’s lung can be prevented by ensuring organic materials are kept dry and stored properly. Keep storage areas well ventilated and wear appropriate Australian Standard respiratory masks which seal the face properly. This action will minimise the risk of inhaling the allergic trigger and prevent the condition developing or progressing.
References used for this topic page
American Lung Association
Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety
University of California
Research & reviews:
National Center for Biotechnology Information
Systematic review of respiratory health among dairy workers.
European Respiratory Journal
Hypersensitivity pneumonitis – current concepts [PDF 132kb]
Hypersensitivity pneumonitis: a historical, clinical and radiological review
Last updated: 5th February, 2019