The role of cotton in respiratory symptoms in the fall

James A. Tarbox MD


During the fall, many people in West Texas have worsening respiratory symptoms while cotton is being harvested and ginned. A common complaint is that cotton itself is to blame for nasal and pulmonary manifestations. Allergic sensitivity to cotton is actually quite uncommon, even in workers in textile and processing plants. Mold, especially Alternaria and Aspergillus species, are occasionally found in cotton crops and can be a source of allergens and mycotoxins. Lipopolysaccharides (LPS) from bacteria could have a role in reduction of FEV1 in byssinosis. Enterobacter in cotton dust possesses highly potent LPS which can elicit a strong inflammatory response in workers. Defoliants, desiccants, pesticides, fertilizers and exhaust fumes are also potential irritants of the respiratory tract. Cotton alone is not the primary source of illness during autumn months. A multitude of allergens, microbes, irritants, and chemical agents that co-exist or are a byproduct of cotton harvesting and ginning are potential contributors to respiratory disease.

Keywords: cotton, respiratory, fall, allergy, harvest

Article citation: Tarbox J. The role of cotton in respiratory symptoms in the fall. The Southwest Respiratory and Critical Care Chronicles, 2017;9(21):44–47
From: Department of Internal Medicine, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Lubbock, TX
Submitted: 6/7/2017
Accepted: 9/18/2017
Reviewer: Goutam Shome MD, PhD
Conflicts of interest: none