Pneumonitis occurs when an irritating substance causes the tiny air sacs (alveoli) in your lungs to become inflamed. This inflammation makes it difficult for oxygen to pass through the alveoli into the bloodstream.

Many irritants, ranging from airborne molds to chemotherapy drugs, have been linked to pneumonitis. But for most people, the specific substance causing the inflammation is never identified. Pneumonitis causes may include:

  • Drugs. A variety of drugs can cause pneumonitis, including some antibiotics, several types of chemotherapy drugs and medications that keep your heartbeat regular. An overdose of aspirin can cause pneumonitis.
  • Molds and bacteria. Repeated exposure to some molds and bacteria can cause the lungs to become inflamed. Specific varieties of mold-related pneumonitis have received nicknames, such as "farmer's lung" or "hot tub lung."
  • Birds. Exposure to feathers or bird excrement is a common cause of pneumonitis.
  • Radiation treatments. Some people who undergo radiation therapy to the chest, such as for breast or lung cancer, may develop pneumonitis. Pneumonitis also can occur after whole-body radiation therapy, which is needed to prepare a person for a bone marrow transplant.
May. 02, 2014

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