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Simple Eosinophilic Pneumonia

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Aug 31, 2022.

What is simple eosinophilic pneumonia (SEP)?

SEP is caused by lung inflammation. Eosinophils are white blood cells that help your body fight disease such as a parasite infection. The eosinophils collect in your lungs and irritate your lung tissues. This makes your lungs inflamed and swollen. SEP is also called Loffler syndrome or pulmonary eosinophilia.

The Lungs

What causes or increases my risk for SEP?

The cause may not be known. Your risk may be increased if you have asthma or cystic fibrosis. SEP may be caused by any of the following:

  • Parasites, such as roundworms and hookworms
  • Fungi
  • An allergic reaction to certain medicines, such as antibiotics or NSAIDs
  • Illegal drugs such as cocaine
  • Smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke
  • Exposure to irritants such as heavy dust or chemical fumes (paint thinners)

What are the signs and symptoms of SEP?

  • Fever
  • A cough that may produce yellow or bloody mucus
  • Chest pain
  • Body aches and pain
  • Fast breathing
  • Wheezing or shortness of breath

How is SEP diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will examine you and ask about your signs and symptoms. He or she will also ask about any medical conditions you have. Tell the provider about any medicines you take now or have taken in the past. You may need any of the following:

  • Blood tests may be used to find the cause of your symptoms.
  • A chest x-ray or CT scan may show signs of infection. You may be given contrast liquid before the scan. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid.
  • A mucus sample may be tested to find the cause of your symptoms.
  • A bronchoscopy is a procedure to look inside your airway and find the cause of your pneumonia. A bronchoscope (thin tube with a light) is inserted into your mouth and moved down your throat to your airway. Tissue and fluid may be collected from your airway or lungs to be tested.

How is SEP treated?

Treatment will depend on the cause of your pneumonia. SEP may go away on its own within a few weeks. You may be given steroid medicine to decrease lung inflammation. You may need medicine to treat an infection caused by parasites. You may need to stop taking any medicine that could have caused your pneumonia.

What can I do to manage SEP?

  • Rest as needed. Rest often while you recover. Slowly start to do more each day.
  • Deep breathe and cough. Deep breathing helps open the air passages in your lungs. Coughing helps bring up mucus from your lungs. Take a deep breath and hold the breath as long as you can. Then push the air out of your lungs with a deep, strong cough. Take 10 deep breaths in a row every hour that you are awake. Remember to follow each deep breath with a cough.
  • Do not smoke. Avoid secondhand smoke. Smoking increases your risk for pneumonia. Smoking also makes it harder for you to get better after you have had pneumonia. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.
  • Avoid things that irritate your lungs. Air pollution and smoke from fireplaces may also make it harder for you to breathe.
  • Drink liquids as directed. Liquids help thin your mucus, which may make it easier for you to cough it up. Ask how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you. Limit caffeine and alcohol. These liquids can make mucus sticky and harder to cough up.
  • Use a cool mist humidifier. A humidifier will help increase air moisture in your home. This may make it easier for you to breathe and help decrease your cough.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You have shortness of breath, or you are breathing faster than normal.
  • You have chest tightness or pain.
  • Your symptoms get worse.

When should I call my doctor?

  • You have a fever.
  • Your symptoms do not improve with treatment.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. 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.

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