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Dust Pneumonia

Dust Pneumonia

We all know about pneumonia, but are you aware about what is known as dust pneumonia? Several cases of this disorder occurred during the Dust Bowl in the 1930s.
Rajib Singha
Last Updated: Jan 27, 2018
The Dust Bowl, also known as the Dirty Thirties, took place in the 1930s in the American and Canadian prairie lands. This incident refers to a period of tremendously severe dust storms which ripped the lands of their ecological and agricultural supports. The outburst of massive amount of dirt in the air was responsible for causing what we know as dust pneumonia.
People could not help but inhale the dirt repeatedly into their lungs and this caused inflammation of the alveoli (a tiny sac for holding air in the lungs). Inhaling dirt in frivolous amounts does not cause any harm, as it passes through the lungs safely, with the help of the tiny hair present in the lungs. However, this isn't the case with dust pneumonia. Here, the high amount of dirt moves so deep into the alveoli, that it cannot be removed by the tiny hair. This eventually leads to infection, respiratory failure, and lung damage.
In the Dust Bowl incident, a substantial number of people fell prey to this disease, probably due to their poor financial condition. Moreover, back then, there was no cure for this disease.
Major Symptoms
This condition deals with the respiratory system of the body and so the symptoms may be painful and severe. To begin with, cough may be the first symptom of dust pneumonia. Coughing is the body's natural defense mechanisms for getting the dirt out of the lungs. The cough seems to be dry initially. However, when the dust, which is trapped deep in the alveoli, refuses to move out, the lungs use mucus for this purpose. So, heavy mucus having a mud like appearance may be coughed out, apart from the mucus which may be yellow and green.
The accumulation of debris and fluid inside the lungs may cause constriction in the air passages of the lungs. This in turn may produce a wheezing sound (somewhat like a whistling sound) when the person takes a deep breath. The occurrence of fever indicates that the disease has progressed to an advanced stage. Fever basically indicates the presence of an infection, especially when accompanied by the symptoms mentioned above. It is to be noted that a fever above 100 degrees F must be immediately evaluated by a doctor.
With time, the infection caused by dust pneumonia may make its way into the bloodstream or other parts of the body. This may result in a shut down of the body and the organs, sending the sufferer to what is known as a septic shock. This may turn out to be a life-threatening situation, if not addressed soon. Chest pain is also a symptom which cannot be ignored. The pain can be a result of the accumulation of dust and debris inside the lungs or from the constriction of the air passages. Chest pain, in any case, is a symptom which must not be overlooked, and should immediately be addressed to.
Other symptoms of the condition may include breathing difficulty, shortness of breath, painful breathing, and burning nose and eyes. Also, the cough could produce blood in spit and eyes, lips, mouth, and throat may also experience a burning sensation. Headache, nausea, weakness, confusion, and flu like symptoms may also indicate the same.
Dust pneumonia is not a condition which can be assumed to be curable with home remedies. The more it is ignored, the more severe it becomes, thus, reducing the chances of successful treatment. So, if you get the slightest hint that you may have been affected by this condition, do not ponder and get treatment from a doctor as soon as possible.