Treatment

Treatments for hypersensitivity pneumonitis usually include avoidance strategies and medicines. Occasionally, lung transplants are used to treat severe chronic disease in some patients.

Avoidance strategies

If your doctor is able to identify the environmental substance that causes your hypersensitivity pneumonitis, he or she will recommend that you adopt the following avoidance strategies.

  • Remove the causative substance if possible
  • Replace workplace or other products with available alternatives that do not contain the substance responsible for your condition
  • Alter work processes so you don’t continue to breathe in the causative substance
  • Stay away from known sources of your causative substance

Medicines

If avoidance strategies do not work for your condition, your doctor may prescribe corticosteroids or other immunosuppressive  medicines to treat your condition. The choice, dose, and duration of these medicines will depend on your condition and medical history. Acute and subacute types of hypersensitivity pneumonitis usually respond well to these treatments.

Depending on your condition, your doctor also may prescribe some of the following supportive therapies.

  • Oxygen therapy as needed for low levels of oxygen in the blood.
  • Bronchodilators to relax the muscles in the airways and open your airways to make breathing easier.
  • Opioids to control shortness of breath or chronic cough that is resistant to other treatments. Regular (e.g. several times a day, for several weeks or more) or longer use of opioids can lead to physical dependence and possibly addiction.

Lung transplants

If your condition is not adequately controlled by avoidance strategies or medicines and you develop serious complications, you may be a candidate for a lung transplant. During this procedure, healthy donor lung will be transplanted into you to replace the damaged lung. Two important things to know:

  • This procedure is not a cure. This is because your immune system will be the same after the procedure. This means that if you are exposed again to the substances that triggers your immune system, new inflammation may damage the transplanted donor lung tissue.
  • This procedure is not for everyone. Even if you are a candidate for this procedure, it may be difficult to find a matching organ donor. Lung transplants are serious medical procedures with their own risks. Talk to your doctor about what procedures are right for you.

Tell me more

Treatment is more successful when hypersensitivity pneumonitis is diagnosed in the early stages of the disease, before permanent irreversible lung damage has occurred. As new data emerges, doctors are becoming more aware of the unique treatment needs for children with hypersensitivity pneumonitis.

Look for

  • Research for Your Health will explain how NHLBI is using current and advancing new research to treat people with hypersensitivity pneumonitis.
  • Living With will discuss some additional medical care or lifestyle changes that your doctor may recommend to prevent your condition from recurring, getting worse, or causing serious complications.