Pneumonitis

Pneumonitis is inflammation of the lungs.

CAUSES

Many things can cause pneumonitis. These can include:

  • A bacterial or viral infection. Pneumonitis due to an infection is usually called pneumonia.

  • Work-related exposures, including farm and industrial work. Some substances that can cause pneumonitis include asbestos, silica, inhaled acids, or inhaled chlorine gas.  

  • Repeated exposure to bird feathers, bird feces, or other allergens.  

  • Medicine such as chemotherapy drugs, certain antibiotics, and some heart medicines.  

  • Radiation therapy.  

  • Exposure to mold. A hot tub, sauna, or home humidifier can have mold growing in it, even if it looks clean. The mold can be breathed in through water vapor.

  • Breathing (aspirating) stomach contents, food, or liquids into the lungs.  

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS

  • Cough.  

  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.  

  • Fever.  

  • Decreased energy.  

  • Decreased appetite.  

DIAGNOSIS

To diagnose pneumonitis, your health care provider will do a complete history and physical exam. Various tests may be ordered, such as:

  • Pulmonary function test.  

  • Chest X-ray.  

  • CT scan of the lungs.  

  • Bronchoscopy.  

  • Lung biopsy.  

TREATMENT

Treatment will depend on the cause of the pneumonitis. If the cause is exposure to a substance, avoiding further exposure to that substance will help reduce your symptoms. Possible medical treatments for pneumonitis include:

  • Corticosteroid medicine to help decrease inflammation in the lungs.  

  • Antibiotic medicine to help fight a bacterial lung infection.  

  • Oxygen therapy if you are having difficulty breathing.  

HOME CARE INSTRUCTIONS

  • Avoid exposure to any substance identified as the cause of your pneumonitis.  

  • If you must continue to work with substances that can cause pneumonitis, wear a mask to protect your lungs.  

  • Only take over-the-counter or prescription medicine as directed by your health care provider.  

  • Do not smoke.  

  • If you use inhalers, keep them with you at all times.  

  • Follow up with your health care provider as directed.  

SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • You develop new or increased shortness of breath.  

  • You develop a blue color (cyanosis) under your fingernails.  

  • You have a fever.  

MAKE SURE YOU:

  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

  • Will get help right away if you are not doing well or get worse.