Medical Definition of Air-conditioner lung

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Last Editorial Review: 1/25/2017

Air-conditioner lung: Is more appropriately referred to as hypersensitivity pneumonitis. Hypersensitivity pneumonitis is an inflammation of the lungs due to breathing in a foreign substance, usually certain types of dust, fungus, or molds. It has also called humidifier lung, extrinsic allergic alveolitis, farmer's lung, mushroom picker's disease, and bird breeder's lung.

The condition is usually found in those whose home or work place contains high levels of contaminants. For example, as a result of fungus present in humidifiers, heating systems, and air conditioners found in homes and offices. Exposure to certain bird droppings (for example, among bird owners) can also lead to hypersensitivity pneumonitis. In farmers with repeated or intense exposure to dust from moldy hay, straw, and grain can lead to lung inflammation and acute lung disease. Over time, this acute condition may turn into long-lasting (chronic) lung disease.

Symptoms of acute hypersensitivity pneumonitis may occur 4 - 6 hours after leaving the area and include: chills, cough, fever, malaise, or shortness of breath. Symptoms of chronic hypersensitivity pneumonitis may include, breathlessness especially with exertion, cough, often dry, loss of appetite, and unintentional weight loss.

Prevention is by avoiding material that causes lung inflammation.

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Last Editorial Review: 1/25/2017