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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
What is histoplasmosis?
Histoplasmosis is a fungal infection of your lungs. It is caused by breathing in soil that is infected with fungus. The fungus is most commonly found in soil that contains bird and bat droppings.
What increases my risk for histoplasmosis?
You may be at risk for histoplasmosis if you live in areas where the fungus is common. This includes the Ohio, Mississippi, and Missouri river valleys. Your risk for histoplasmosis may also increase if you work with soil. Examples include farmers, landscapers, construction workers, and geologists. Older adults and people with a weak immune system are also at risk for histoplasmosis.
What are the signs and symptoms of histoplasmosis?
Most people do not have signs or symptoms. A mild infection may cause fever, chills, muscle aches, or fatigue. You may also have headaches, chest pain, and a dry cough. Symptoms may last 2 to 4 weeks. A severe infection may cause any of the following:
- A cough with bloody or thick yellow sputum
- Night sweats
- Shortness of breath
- A rash
- Weight loss
How is histoplasmosis diagnosed?
- Blood and urine tests will show if you have a histoplasmosis infection. Blood tests may also be done to check your blood cell levels and get information about your overall health.
- A sputum sample may be collected and tested to find the germ that is causing your illness.
How is histoplasmosis treated?
Most people do not need treatment for histoplasmosis. You may need medicine to decrease fever, pain, or swelling. You may need antifungal medicine if you have a weak immune system or lung disease. If your infection is severe you may need monitoring and treatment in the hospital.
What are the risks of histoplasmosis?
Histoplasmosis may be more serious in older adults and anyone with lung disease such as COPD. The infection may cause serious breathing problems. It may also spread to other places in your body.
How do I prevent another histoplasmosis infection?
Stay away from places where the fungus grows. This includes caves, barns, chicken coops, and under bridges. It also includes chimneys and attics. If you must work in these areas, wear a mask over your mouth and nose. Wet the soil with water before you work with it. This will decrease your risk for breathing in soil. If you have a weak immune system, you may need to take antifungal medicine to prevent another infection.
Call 911 for any of the following:
- You have a seizure.
- You have trouble breathing.
When should I seek immediate care?
- You are confused or cannot think clearly.
- You cough up blood or thick, yellow, sputum.
- Your heart is beating faster than usual.
- You have a severe headache and a stiff neck.
When should I contact my healthcare provider?
- Your symptoms get worse or do not get better in 2 weeks.
- You have a rash.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.