Dust pneumonia describes disorders caused by excessive exposure to dust storms, particularly during the Dust Bowl in the United States. A form of pneumonia, dust pneumonia results when the lungs are filled with dust, inflaming the alveoli. The dust pneumonia was featured in the work of several musicians and artists of the day, such as Woody Guthrie's Dust Pneumonia Blues.
Symptoms of dust pneumonia include high fever, chest pain, difficulty in breathing, and coughing. Antibiotics which fight infection, like penicillin, were not discovered until 1939 and were not put into general use until much later. People who had dust pneumonia often died. There are no official death rates published for the Great Plains in the 1930s, but Red Cross volunteers made and distributed thousands of dust masks. The Kansas State Board of Health reported that in April of 1935, 17 people had already died from dust pneumonia. With dust pneumonia, dust settles all the way into the alveoli of the lungs, stopping the cilia from moving and preventing the lungs from ever clearing themselves.