PREVENT BREATHING BREAKDOWNS. It’s hardly surprising that the statistics on lung disease are sobering. Between genetics, air pollution, cleaning solutions, smoking, sitting and sleep disorders, our delicate lungs are under constant siege. Some risk factors may be unavoidable, but a bit of basic knowledge and prevention can help thwart these endless threats to our health and well-breathing.
Breathe Canada: 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. This is because combustion of materials releases harmful substances into your lungs (toxins and carcinogens). If you have never smoked, don't start. If you are still smoking, it’s never too late to quit. Learn more about how to quit including the many effective medications and smoking cessation programs that work.
- TEACH KIDS SMOKING STINKS. Make sure kids understand the dangers of smoking and be a role model by not smoking or by committing to quit.
- AVOID SECOND- 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 that—along with indoor pollutants to form lung-damaging compounds. Clean your carpets. Paint the walls with low VOC paints. Rent smoke-free hotel rooms.
- WASH YOUR HANDS. Wash thoroughly with soap and water several times a day to keep germs at bay and avoid most of the common infectious diseases that are spread by hand. Learn expert handwashing.
- COVER YOUR COUGHS. To help stop the spread of germs, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Stay away from crowds during peak cold and flu season, get plenty of rest, eat well and keep your stress levels under control.
- CONVERT YOUR FIREPLACE. The particulate matter in 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.
- CLEAN HOUSE. 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.
- CHECK YOUR HOME FOR RADON. Radon gas (a naturally occurring radioactive gas produced by the breakdown of uranium in the ground) 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.
- WEAR A MASK. 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 chemical, solvents and paints. Wear protective masks when you work with chemicals and report unsafe working conditions. Go to lung screening and other health programs offered at work.
- TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR. See your doctor if you experience shortness of breath, pain when breathing, dizziness with a change of activity, a persistent cough, wheezing or coughing with exercise, 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.
- 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.
- BE AWARE OF THE AIR. People with lung diseases such as asthma and 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. To learn more about particulates click here.
- DON’T IDLE. Do your part to curb noxious air and turn off the ignition if you’re waiting more than 10 seconds.
- GET VACCINATED. This is especially important if you have lung disease, though healthy people also benefit from getting vaccinated. If you have significant lung disease or are over 65, a pneumonia shot also is recommended.