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What Is Dust Pneumonia?

Nicole Madison
Updated Feb 08, 2024
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Dust pneumonia is a serious lung infection that develops because of excessive exposure to dust. Often, this type of infection occurs when dust and dirt enter the respiratory system because of a dust storm and interfere with the proper functioning of the lungs. The illness causes such symptoms as difficultly breathing, coughing, and chest pain. It may also cause fever and shock. If left untreated, this type of pneumonia can prove deadly.

Most people are exposed to dust and dirt on a daily basis and might inhale some from time to time. If an individual has excessive exposure to dust and dirt, however, and inhales too much of it, he may develop a lung infection that is referred to as dust pneumonia. This occurs when inhaled dust and dirt enters the lungs in sufficient enough quantities to stop tiny hairs, referred to as cilia, from moving the particles through the lungs. This results in inflammation and infection that, if left untreated, can be life threatening.

This type of pneumonia is unlikely to develop because of everyday exposure to small amounts of dust, or even when a person cleans a particularly dusty or dirty room. Instead, it is typically the result of inhaling dust and dirt during a dust storm. These storms cause large amounts of dust and dirt to become airborne, making it difficult for a person to avoid inhaling the particles.

The symptoms of dust pneumonia typically include coughing, wheezing, and chest pain. Usually, this begins as a dry cough that attempts to move the dust particles through the lungs. When this doesn’t happen, infection sets in and a person may begin to cough up mucus that has a muddy appearance and can take on a yellowish or greenish color. Along with the coughing, a person may experience progressively difficult breathing, and chest pain might develop as well.

Fever and septic shock may also occur when a person has dust pneumonia. Though this typically isn't the first sign a person has, it may be the first sign of a serious infection. Septic shock can also develop if the lung infection progresses. This advanced symptom is the result of the infection spreading to the bloodstream.

Treatment for dust pneumonia often involves the use of prescription medication to ease breathing and oxygen masks to assist the patient in getting an adequate amount of oxygen in each breath. Antibiotics also may be prescribed to help fight the infection. Often, patients are given fluids intravenously as well.

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Nicole Madison
By Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a WiseGeek writer, where she focuses on topics like homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. Her passion for knowledge is evident in the well-researched and informative articles she authors. As a mother of four, Nicole balances work with quality family time activities such as reading, camping, and beach trips.
Discussion Comments
By anon346582 — On Aug 29, 2013

I have the same thing. The apartment I rented was built 100 years ago and the floorboards were wide open and we would step on them and they would squeak and dust would shoot up every time we took a step and we didn't know what it was.

We had the chest pain and thought it was a heart attack, but soon after that, we started to cough and would hack up green and yellow phlegm and it would be a handful every time. My body would move some of it, but not even close to all of it. We lived there seven months and we tried telling our landlord the house is not inhabitable.

I had to get a blood draw to check for a blood infection and got meds from the doctor. I took naproxen among other stuff and had X-rays on my chest to check coughing production, and in the last few days we have been coughing up blood. This is the worst thing that's ever happened to me. We also have it all and video of us coughing out huge, black dust balls out of our lungs.

By ellafarris — On Jul 25, 2011

I had dust pneumonia from the dust bowl of 1935 back in Kansas. I was just a young girl back then but I can remember the doctor telling my parents that he wasn't sure if I would make it.

I had a steady temperature of one hundred and four degrees and a cough so strong that I thought my lungs were going to explode.

I'm happy to say that I was one of the lucky ones who lived through it but I still suffer from chronic bronchitis to this day. I can't run, walk up stairs or even blow up balloons for my grandchildren.

It's a painful disability that I've learned to live with. I have my good days and my bad days and I'm just happy to be alive. I pray that Kansas never sees a dust bowl like that ever again.

By wizup — On Jul 25, 2011

My grandfather died from dust bowl pneumonia just four days after finally seeing a doctor. My mother said he spent endless hours outside in the storm trying to protect their home and the family from the dust.

He had no protection on his face though other than a thin handkerchief over his nose and mouth and another one tied over his hat and under his chin.

She said they had to hang wet sheets over the windows that actually turned black before they were even hung up.

My mother was very young when my grandfather passed away but she said there were many sleepless nights from listening to her fathers coughing and moaning. I can only imagine what a painful slow death that must have been.

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a WiseGeek writer, where she focuses on topics like...
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