An image of an asthma-inflamed bronchial tube

Byssinosis

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Byssinosis

Byssinosis is an asthma-like disorder in textile workers caused by inhalation of cotton dust, is sometimes referred to as brown lung disease. It’s a form of occupational asthma. The pathogenesis is obscure. Chest tightness, cough, and dyspnea are characteristically worse on Mondays or the first day back at work, with symptoms subsiding later in the week. Repeated exposure leads to chronic bronchitis.

Symptoms of Byssinosis

Common symptoms include cough, difficulty breathing, and chest tightness. The symptoms may be worse when you return to work after a break, such as after the weekend. When you return to the place where the dust is, symptoms begin within 1 to 2 hours. These symptoms slowly decrease over the course of the week.

In some people, fever occurs 4 to 8 hours after coming into contact with cotton dust. This fever lasts for a day. Other symptoms include shivering, flu-like muscle pain, joint pain, tiredness, and dry cough.

Sometimes, workers with long-term exposure, such as weavers or mattress makers, may have continuous fever, severe cough, and shortness of breath.

Treatment Options for Byssinosis

The main treatment for byssinosis is to avoid exposure to harmful dust.

To relieve mild to moderate symptoms, your doctor may prescribe bronchodilators. These drugs help open constricted airways.

In more severe cases of byssinosis, inhaled corticosteroids may be prescribed. These reduce lung inflammation. However, these drugs can cause fungal infections in your mouth and throat. You can reduce this risk by rinsing your mouth after inhaling the medication.

If your blood oxygen levels are low, you may need supplemental oxygen therapy. For chronic byssinosis, a nebulizer or other respiratory treatment may be recommended.

Breathing exercises and physical activity can also help improve lung health and symptoms.

You may need to quit your job. Even though symptoms may diminish towards the end of the workweek, your lungs are still accumulating damage. Exposure to cotton, hemp, and flax dust over a period of years can cause irreversible damage to your lungs.

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