The best way to treat hypersensitivity pneumonitis (HP) is to avoid the antigen that caused it. (An antigen is a substance that your body reacts against, such as molds, dusts, and chemicals.)
In acute (short-term) HP, symptoms usually go away once you're no longer in contact with the antigen. In chronic (ongoing) HP, you may need medicines to relieve your symptoms.
People who have chronic HP may develop pulmonary fibrosis. This is a condition in which tissue deep in your lungs becomes scarred over time. People who have this condition may need further treatment, such as oxygen therapy and pulmonary rehabilitation (rehab).
Once the antigen that caused the HP and its source are found, you can take steps to avoid it. If HP is caught early, avoiding the antigen may be the only treatment you need.
Avoiding an antigen may be easier at home than at work. For example, if your pet bird, moldy carpet, or hot tub is the source of the antigen, you can remove it from your home. If your heating system is the source of the antigen, you can have your system properly serviced.
However, if the antigen is at work, you may need to talk with your supervisor about your condition and ways to protect yourself. For example, masks or personal respirators may help protect you from antigens in the air. (A personal respirator is a device that helps filter the air you breathe in.)
Some people who have HP may need to move to a different home or change jobs to avoid antigens. After hurricanes, for example, some people have to move from their homes to avoid molds that could harm their lungs. However, moving and changing jobs sometimes isn't possible.
If you have chronic HP, your doctor may prescribe medicines called corticosteroids. These medicines reduce lung inflammation. Prednisone is an example of a corticosteroid.
Long-term use of prednisone, especially at high doses, can cause serious side effects. Thus, if your doctor prescribes this medicine, he or she may reduce the dose over time.
Examples of side effects from corticosteroids are increased risk of infections, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and osteoporosis (thinning of the skin and bones).
People who develop pulmonary fibrosis may need medicines, oxygen therapy, and/or pulmonary rehab. Pulmonary fibrosis is a condition in which tissue deep in your lungs becomes scarred over time.
If you smoke, try to quit. Smoking can make HP symptoms worse and lead to other lung diseases. Talk with your doctor about programs and products that can help you quit. Also, try to avoid secondhand smoke.
The NHLBI updates Health Topics articles on a biennial cycle based on a thorough review of research findings and new literature. The articles also are updated as needed if important new research is published. The date on each Health Topics article reflects when the content was originally posted or last revised.