According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately one out of seven American adults suffers from some form of chronic lung disease. The two most common chronic lung diseases that affect Americans include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports approximately 14.8 million cases of COPD and 25 million cases of asthma across the United States.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease refers to a group of chronic, or lifelong, lung conditions that block the airways and make it more difficult to breathe. COPD includes both emphysema and chronic bronchitis. According to the CDC, common symptoms of COPD include frequent coughing or wheezing, excess phlegm or mucus, shortness of breath and trouble taking deep breaths.
The American Lung Association (ALA) defines asthma as a chronic lung condition that causes swollen and inflamed airways, making it harder to move air into and out of your lungs. When you have asthma, certain things in the environment can worsen your symptoms, causing an ‘asthma attack.’ While most people develop asthma as a child, asthma can begin at any age. Sometimes symptoms can lessen for a period of time and develop more severely again later in life.
With summer weather just around the corner, it’s important to educate yourself on the effects of hot and humid weather conditions, high pollen levels and grassy, weedy environments on your lungs. For someone with chronic lung problems like COPD or asthma, the heat, humidity, grass and weeds that go hand-in-hand with summer can greatly affect the lungs, causing a flare up of symptoms.
According to the ALA, inhaling hot air can increase inflammation of the airways and trigger the onset of respiratory symptoms, especially in those with COPD or asthma. Similarly, high pollen levels and grassy areas can act as irritants for your lungs, constricting the airways and making it more difficult to breathe.
If you have COPD or asthma, the ALA recommends these tips for minimizing flare-ups during the summer:
∫ Check the weather and pollen forecasts to avoid spending too much time outside during a heat wave or time of high pollen levels.
∫ Keep out of the sun by wearing loose, cool clothing and sunglasses to protect your skin and eyes. If you plan to go outside, avoid staying in the sun for long periods of time.
∫ Pack a bag of essentials to carry with you at all times. Make sure to bring your quick-relief medications with you.
Drink plenty of water to prevent from becoming dehydrated.
If you would like to learn more, attend a special program entitled ‘Breathe Easy’ presented by Littauer’s Pulmonary Rehab Services on June 26, in Littauer’s Auditorium.
You are invited to join us for a buffet-style luncheon at 11:30 for $6 or attend the presentation only at noon at no charge. To attend, call HealthLink Littauer at (518) 736-1120 or email [email protected] We’re your community health and wellness service of Nathan Littauer Hospital and Nursing Home.
Alicia DeRuscio is the community education assistant.