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Preventing lung disease

Some risk factors for lung illness or disease may be unavoidable, but a bit of basic knowledge and prevention can help prevent many breathing breakdowns.

Here are some helpful tips and techniques to keep your airways in peak condition.

Stop smoking

Smoking damages your lungs and increases your risk for a number of diseases including lung cancer and COPD. If you have never smoked, don't start. If you are still smoking, it’s never too late to quit.


Avoid second-hand and third-hand smoke

Breathing the smoke from cigarettes and pipes boosts your risk for the same diseases that affect people who smoke. Don't allow smoking in your home, in the car or at work. Also stay away from third-hand smoke—residual tobacco fumes that adhere to walls and furniture. Rent smoke-free hotel rooms.


Convert your fireplace 

The particulate matter from burning wood and waste can seriously damage your lungs. If possible, switch to a cleaner burning gas or wood stove or put in an electronic fireplace or gas insert.

Check the Air Quality Health Index

People with lung diseases such as asthma or COPD need to pay particular attention to the levels of air pollution called particulates — tiny solid or liquid particles — in the environment and limit their outdoor exposure when levels are high. 


Check your home for radon

Radon gas is a naturally occurring radioactive gas produced by the breakdown of uranium in the ground. It is a hidden killer and the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking. Find out if there are high levels of radon in your home or workplace. It may be leaking into the house through cracks in the foundation and walls.


Keep your house clean

Air fresheners, mould, pet dander and construction materials all pose a potential problem. Turn on the exhaust fan when you cook and avoid using aerosol products like hair spray. Change your furnace air filter seasonally. Learn about indoor air pollution and what you can do to reduce your exposure.

Get vaccinated

Getting your recommended vaccines against flu, COVID-19, pneumonia and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a great way to show your lungs some love. It is especially important if you're living with lung disease. Not all of these vaccines are recommended for everyone. Speak to your family doctor, nurse practitioner or pharmacist about what vaccines are recommended for you.

  • We've created an easy tool to help you keep track of your recommended vaccines.


Wash or sanitize your hands

Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer or wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water several times a day. This will help keep germs at bay and help you avoid most of the common infectious diseases that are spread by hand. 


Cover your coughs

To help stop the spread of germs, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or cough or sneeze into your elbow. Stay away from crowds during peak cold and flu season, get plenty of rest, eat well and keep your stress levels under control.


Wear a mask

Wearing a mask to keep from getting sick or getting others sick has become more common in Canada following the COVID-19 pandemic. Wearing a mask can protect against cold, flu or COVID-19 viruses that can be spread by respiratory droplets (sneezing, coughing, etc.).

Canadian workers may be exposed to an excessive amount of dust, fumes, smoke, gases, vapors or mists in the workplace. Poor ventilation, closed-in working areas and heat increase are also disease-causing culprits. Avoid breathing in toxic fumes from chemicals, solvents or paints. Wear protective masks (N95 or better) when you work with chemicals and report unsafe working conditions. Take advantage of lung screening and other health programs offered at work.


Stay away from sick people

If you have a long-term lung disease like asthma or COPD, you are more likely to get a respiratory infection like a cold, the flu or COVID-19. This could make your COPD or asthma symptoms much worse. It's best to stay away from people who are sick.

Take the stairs

Do something active for 30 minutes each day to lighten the load on your lungs and increase the efficiency of oxygen transportation and metabolism. Walk around the building, bike around your neighborhood, or even run in place for a bit. 


Talk to your healthcare provider

See your doctor or nurse practitioner if you experience shortness of breath, pain when breathing, dizziness with a change of activity, a persistent cough, wheezing or coughing with exercise or pain in the airway. If you have a chronic lung disease like asthma or COPD, work with your doctor to manage symptoms and flare-ups.


Use an action plan

An updated action plan for COPD or asthma can help you track your symptoms, medications and what to do if you experience an exacerbation or an "asthma attack".

Protect loved ones living with lung disease

Getting your recommended vaccines is a great way to help protect the millions of Canadians living with lung disease who are at risk of serious illness from flu, COVID-19, pneumonia and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).


Teach kids about the dangers of smoking and vaping

Make sure kids understand the dangers of smoking and vaping. Be a role model by not smoking or vaping or by committing to quit.


Don't idle

Do your part to curb noxious air and turn off the ignition if you’re waiting more than 10 seconds.


Cough and sneeze into a tissue or your sleeve

Sneezing and coughing can spread colds, flu, and many other viruses. These viruses live in the saliva and mucus in your nose and throat.

When you sneeze and cough, you spray little droplets of saliva and mucus into the air. Other people can breathe in the droplets and get sick. Or the droplets can land on tables, keyboards, books, and other things. When someone touches these things, then touches their face or eyes, they can catch the virus and get sick.