Farmer's Lung

Definition - What does Farmer's Lung mean?

Farmer’s lung is a pulmonary condition caused by inhaling dust from mold found on agricultural products and/or natural substances such as animal excretions, grain, hay, silage, straw, and wood. Initial exposure can induce an allergic reaction, or hypersensitivity, triggering the immune system to respond with inflammation. In many instances, membrane tissue lining the nasal and/or oral passages is incapable of filtering out airborne dust particles from raw materials. As a result, mold antigens attach to the alveoli (air sacs on lungs), leading to gradual decline of lung function characterized by fibrosis, or scar tissue, over time.

WorkplaceTesting explains Farmer's Lung

Although farmer’s lung affects a small percentage of individuals, prolonged exposure can create serious health issues including breathing difficulties, general fatigue/weakness, depression, and death. Because farmer’s lung produces symptoms such as coughing fits, fever/chills, lethargy, muscle discomfort, and sporadic chest pains, early symptoms are often mistaken for a cold or flu spell. Individuals who experience an acute attack are more susceptible to contracting chronic farmer’s lung, disrupting the cardiopulmonary process during manual labor or other strenuous activity.

While no cure exists for farmer’s lung, treatment solutions are available to mitigate harmful effects or slow progressive deterioration of lung tissue. Simple methods can include dampening staple crops and/or storage containers, (i.e., hay bales, silos), installing ventilation system units and/or transferring workloads outdoors to allow proper dust dispersal, using appropriate farm equipment, and wearing protective masks/dust respirators.

Individuals who work in the agriculture industry or exposed to similar environmental conditions are more likely to develop farmer’s lung. Consistent doctor visits are key in receiving a proper diagnosis. Patients may undergo pulmonary tests to identify the onset of farmer’s lung. This method is followed by tracking the prognosis to determine if prescription medicine such as steroids are needed to reduce inflammation is needed.

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