This is a form of extrinsic allergic alveolitis in which the repeated inhalation of avian antigens provokes a hypersensitivity reaction in susceptible subjects.
Acute pigeon fancier's lung presents as recurrent episodes of shortness of breath and cough, with fever, shivering, and malaise. Symptoms occur 4-8 hours after exposure to antigen. After exposure lung function tests and chest xrays may be abnormal but generally return to normal between episodes. Chronic pigeon fancier's lung is characterised by insidious development of breathlessness and pulmonary fibrosis.
Treatment is mainly via antigen avoidance and respiratory protection e.g. masks. Corticosteroid treatment has been shown to improve respiratory function in the short term of the allied condition acute farmer's lung. However steroids have only a small role in the long term.
Ref: BMJ (1997), 315, 70-71.
Last reviewed 01/2018