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Hypersensitive reactions, also known as Extrinsic Allergic Alveolitis, have numerous causes. In Ireland the principal occurrence is known as Farmer’s Lung. Like many other reactions, it’s caused by the spores of fungi; in the case of farmer’s lung, by the spores from mouldy hay. Another example is Mushroom Worker’s lung from spores and dust in compost on which mushrooms are farmed. In 1982 the Dept. of Agriculture in Northern Ireland estimated that 5% of workers in the mushroom farming industry in Northern Ireland suffered from the disease.
The symptoms of are a fever with headache, muscle ache, dizziness, coughing and chest pain. Symptoms appear 5-6 hours after exposure and recur on the next exposure.
The serious aspect of the disease lies in the permanent damage arising from a series of attacks. Once sensitized, even low levels of exposure will result in an attack. A series of attacks will result in the formation of lung fibrosis, growing progressively worse with further attacks. Serious deficiency in lung function will result from this condition, with permanent breathlessness and general incapacity. The following is a list of further incidents of this condition:
Condition Occupation Cause
Bird-fancier’s lung Poultry workers Bird droppings & feathers
Malt worker’s lung Millers and brewers Mouldy grain
Humidifier fever Office workers Fungal growth in humidifier
Certain cases of extrinsic allergic alveolitis are a prescribed disease under the Department of Social Welfare Occupational Injuries Benefit scheme.