What is Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis?
“Umm… excuse me, did you say Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious…???” Nope! We said Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis (HP) [click here for pronunciation], but we completely understand your confusion. So, what is HP? At it’s very basic, HP is an inflammation of the lungs, which is caused by regular breathing of dust and a variety of mold and fungus spores. The inflammation comes as a result of the body’s natural immune response, wherein it attempts to fight off these natural pathogens, which it perceives as a threat.
Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis and Mold in your Workplace:
So, what you may think is a simple cough or just chest congestion, could in reality be Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis – a debilitating problem that can cause difficulty breathing, reduced energy levels, and even depression. Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis and Mold in your Workplace can turn into a serious condition causing absenteeism and loss of productivity. But, the good news is, it is completely preventable and reversible if caught early.
Common Symptoms of Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis and Mold in your Workplace:
- Fever (which is why some individuals confuse it with a simple cold)
- Shortness of breath (especially during physical activity)
- Loss of appetite
Interestingly, one of the reasons why many people don’t realize they have Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis is because, in the initial stages of this disease, symptoms appear several hours after exposure to the pathogens and allergens. Meaning, if you work at an office where there is a high concentration of such pathogens in the air, you may not start feeling ill until after you get home.
Common Causes of Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis and Mold in your Workplace:
Although it was initially believed that Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis was only the result of working in natural environments or with certain animals, the medical community has since come to a conclusion that HP can also be developed due to poor indoor air quality at offices and at home.
With time, these pathogens build up in the HVAC system, and employees (or family members) will start to experience HP symptoms–especially those with asthma or autoimmune disorders. If HVAC systems are not regularly cleaned, these symptoms will become more acute with time, and can eventually lead to chronic HP, which cannot be cured.
How to Prevent Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis and Mold in your Workplace:
- Do not block air vents or grilles. Place office furniture, equipment, and supplies in locations that will allow for the best air circulation. If you notice a decrease in temperature or air flow (even when the HVAC system is set at adequate levels) notify your facility maintenance team. Over time air ducts and coils can become clogged with dirt and debris. This provides a feeding ground for contaminates such as mold to grow inside the ducts.
- Have regular Air Duct and Coil Cleanings. Also, if you are noticing a musty-mildew smell coming from the system, request an anti-microbial sanitation to accompany your air duct cleaning. The sanitation specifically targets and eliminates mold spores and.
- Report signs of dampness, water, or water stains to facility maintenance. Common sources of moisture in buildings include: plumbing, flooding, and condensation on cold surfaces, e.g. pipe sweating. Pay special attention to ceiling tiles stains—which indicate a possible roof or HVAC leak—and areas around sinks and bathrooms.
More Info? Don’t know what to do about your office IAQ? Check out “Can You Pass the IAQ Test for Your Workplace?” To learn what you can do to improve your IAQ and productivity!
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