What is Farmer’s Lung?

Farmer’s Lung is an allergy caused by breathing in dust from mouldy hay, straw or grain. If left untreated, it can cause permanent lung damage. The medical terms for Farmer’s Lung conditions are:

  • Extrinsic allergic alveolitis
  • Hypersensitivity alveolitis
  • Hypersensitivity pneumonitis

How are People Exposed to Farmer’s Lung?

When crops are harvested and stored in damp conditions, this allows mould spores to form within the crops. Once dry, the hay or crop can become very dusty and this dust is launched into the air when the hay or crop is moved or cut apart for use. Anyone working in the vicinity may inhale the mouldy, bacteria-filled spores in the dust and become ill as a result.

What are the Symptoms of Farmer’s Lung?

Farmer’s Lung is an allergy that’s triggered when this dust becomes lodged in the lungs.  Once an allergy has developed, it can cause a hypersensitive reaction whenever that individual is exposed to the dust in future. The body’s immune response is to kill lung tissue surrounding the allergen, which eventually causes permanent lung damage. There are two kinds of Farmer’s Lung; Acute and Chronic. Acute Farmer’s Lung has a sudden onset and usually occurs a few hours after exposure. 

Symptoms include:

  • Breathlessness
  • A dry cough
  • A general feeling of being unwell or sick
  • Fever and/or chills
  • Rapid heart rate and rapid breathing

 Provided there is no further exposure to the dust, symptoms should begin to subside after 12 hours, although in some cases, they can last as long as two weeks. Chronic Farmer’s Lung is the result of repeated exposure to the dust and can develop over a number of years.  Sufferers have often experienced several acute attacks before developing Chronic Farmer’s Lung. Symptoms include a worsening of all the symptoms associated with Acute Farmer’s Lung and also weight loss, lack of energy, occasional fevers and permanent lung damage.

How is Farmer’s Lung Diagnosed?

If Farmer’s Lung is diagnosed in the early stages and further exposure is avoided, it’s possible to make a full recovery. Methods of diagnosis include a blood test, breathing capacity measurement, chest X-ray and allergy tests. 

It’s important to tell your doctor if you have been exposed to mouldy hay or other mouldy crops. If diagnosed, your doctor may prescribe corticosteroids in the short term to aid lung function.  Bed rest may be recommended for more serious cases.  The most important factor is to stop any further exposure to the dust.

How can it be prevented?

It is important to take steps to reduce the risk of mould forming the first place, such as drying the crops as much as possible before storage, making sure the storage area is well ventilated and providing workers with respirators.

Making a Claim

If you were exposed to dust at work and your employer did not take the necessary safety precautions, you may be able to claim compensation.  It’s important to seek legal advice as soon as possible to establish the validity of your claim. To find out more about how Cute Injury can help, get in touch today.

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