Keeping your lungs healthy goes well beyond avoiding smoking and tobacco products. Armen Bekverdyan, Respiratory Therapist at CHA HPMC, explains the importance of prioritizing lung health, especially during COVID-19.

Why should we prioritize lung health?
Coronavirus/COVID-19 is a respiratory disease and it targets the lungs, causing symptoms like cough and shortness of breath. Individuals with healthy lungs are at a lower risk of adverse impact from the disease and have a better chance of fighting pathogens.

How does COVID-19 impact lungs?
COVID-19 is an airborne disease and it enters the body through the eyes, nose, and mouth. Once inside the body, the virus causes inflammation in your lungs, damaging the cells and tissue that line the air sacs in the lungs. We’ve noticed that patients who have had history of COVID-19 take longer time to recover from the impact of the virus as compared to pneumonia.

What are some of the common lung disorders?
Two of the prominent lung conditions are Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and Asthma.

What is COPD and how is it caused?
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a condition which affects the airflow from the lungs and causes breathing-related problems. The main cause of COPD is smoking as the harmful chemicals and irritants can damage the lungs and airways. Although there is no cure for COPD, it can be treated.
There are two types of COPD patients:

  • Blue bloaters: Patients with chronic bronchitis who are overweight, have blue-colored skin around their lips and fingertips, and present with shortness of breath.
  • Pink puffers: Patients with emphysema who are thin/skinny, have red/pink-colored skin, and present with shortness of breath.

What are some of the common symptoms of COPD and how is it diagnosed?
The main symptom is shortness of breath. We diagnose these patients using the Pulmonary Function Testing (PFT) which shows how well the lungs are working by measuring the lung volume and capacity. The test results are used to determine the level of COPD.

Do fall allergies impact COPD?
Fall allergies negatively impact COPD symptoms, especially if the individual had childhood asthma or certain allergies throughout their life.

What are some of the best ways to keep your lungs healthy and avoid allergy triggers?

  • Wear a face mask to avoid breathing pollutants and particulates in the air.
  • Avoid smoking, vaping, and using tobacco products.
  • Exercise regularly to maintain healthy body weight. It is important to do at least 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise every day for a healthy heart.
  • Hydration and healthy diet is very important.
  • If you have central air-conditioning, it is a best practice to change the filter regularly.
  • If you have any allergies to pets, make sure to stay away from them.
  • Hand hygiene is the best way to prevent infections as your hands are your primary contact to the world. So wash your hands properly and follow hand hygiene measures.
  • If you have seasonal allergies, asthma, or COPD, keep up with maintenance and allergy medications. Maintenance medicines are taken on a regular basis such as oral or inhaled medications.
  • It is important to get your flu vaccination, especially if you are in the high risk population (older adults and individuals with underlying conditions).

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