Pigeon Fancier’s Lung: What You Need To Know

Pigeon Fancier’s Lung, a.k.a Bird Fanciers Lung or “Pigeon Breeders Disease”, is a type of hypersensitivity pneumonitis that is characterized by fever, chills, breathlessness, and constant tightness in the chest area.

The condition is triggered when individuals are exposed to the dry dust present in the droppings and feathers of birds. (1) People who keep pigeons are more likely to develop this condition.

It might take many months or even a few years to completely develop this allergy. Do note that only a few people who inhale the avian protein laden dust are susceptible to this condition. (2)

Symptoms of Pigeon Fancier’s Lung

Most people experience flu-like symptoms when they are diagnosed with Pigeon Fancier’s Lung. This reaction starts occurring post 4 to 6 hours after you have inhaled the dust. Common symptoms include:

  • dry cough
  • breathlessness
  • tightness in the chest
  • fever
  • sudden chills
  • a general sense of fatigue

These initial symptoms can last as little as 12 hours a day. But for some individuals, they can be ongoing. If you have constant exposure to dust, you are likely to experience shortness of breath (especially when you are active), dry cough and sudden weight loss.

When to Consult a Doctor?

If you experience either one or more symptoms of Pigeon Fancier’s Lung, it is important to consult your doctor immediately. At the moment of the acute attack, you may feel like you’ve caught the flu. Additionally, you might notice either one more of the given symptoms over the next 4 to 6 hours.

The defining aspect of this allergic reaction is the fact that unlike flu, which is usually experienced during colder months, this condition can happen throughout the year. What’s more, your health is likely to get even more adverse with constant exposure to the dust.

If you notice any of the above symptoms and suspect Pigeon Fancier Lung – consult your doctor right away.

How is Pigeon Fancier’s Lung Diagnosed?

Pigeon Fancier’s Lung is usually diagnosed by conducting the following steps.

First, a blood screening test will be conducted. If anything suspicious is detected, a lung scan and other lung function tests will be carried out.

Additionally, you might also have to go through X-ray as they offer a high degree of clarity in assessing the level of infection. (3)

How to Prevent this Allergy?

If you want to reduce your risk of Pigeon Fancier’s Lung, the best way to go about it is by wearing a cap or mask while you are dealing with the birds.

This is especially relevant when you are cleaning out the loft. (3)

When you are not using a cap or the mask, store it somewhere outside the loft. This is because pigeon dust can accumulate inside your protective gear leading to problems.

In addition to wearing protective gear, also avoid using mold-ridden straw in the nest boxes.

Loft Ventilation and Hygiene

Plenty of ventilation and air extraction from the loft is also very important.

Additionally, you might want to do a vacuum cleaning a few times a week (some fanciers do it once a day).

Advice on masks

Wearing the right mask is imperative to better prevent reactions from pigeon fancier’s lung. Your simple DIY or gauze-based mask isn’t really suitable for the job. Since pigeon bloom is incredibly small, it is important to use the right mask for the job. (3)

When choosing a mask, also make sure that they are compliant with the required European standard or other standards as prescribed in other countries.

According to the RPRA, the EU standard for masks is as follows:

  • EN149:FFP1 (S) for disposable masks
  • EN143:1990 for the replaceable filter mask.

The stealth respirator mask would be a recommended choice because it complies with EN143:1990.

In summary

Individuals suffering from any stage of Pigeon’s Fancier Lung should be careful if they’ve not been in contact with the birds for a while. This is because they are likely to experience a higher degree of reaction after returning to the pigeons.

Whether you suspect you may be susceptible to the condition or not, it’s always best to wear protection and be safe, especially if you’re in the loft for extended periods or cleaning.


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