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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, dust 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 of dust pneumonia, 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.
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.
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