Many things can contribute to respiratory problems, indoors and out. Seasonal allergies, pollution, dust, chemicals, asthma, smoking, chronic bronchitis – some of these are avoidable and some are not.
When allergens from overgrowth of foliage and dust get into your airways, they can cause your lungs to swell and make it harder to breathe. Most allergies can be treated with over-the-counter medications to help open your airways so you can breathe better. Talk with your doctor about which product is best for you.
Throughout the summer, when temperatures hit triple digits, you might have seen alerts on the news about air quality. The humidity and heat index can cause and/or increase several respiratory problems in people. While the temperature outside is cooling down a little, if you can call 96 degrees cool, you may still experience breathing problems well into October. Stay aware of air quality alerts and stay indoors, especially if you have asthma or bronchitis.
Asthma is a condition in which your airways narrow and swell, producing extra mucus. This can make breathing difficult and trigger coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath. For some people, asthma is a minor nuisance.
Asthma symptoms include:
- Trouble breathing
- Chest tightness
While most people can live normal lives with asthma, an estimated 10 Americans die each day from asthma attacks. If you have asthma and are having trouble breathing, get emergency medical treatment right away.
Visit the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America’s website to learn more about asthma and allergies.
Bronchitis is an inflammation of the lining of your bronchial tubes, which carry air to and from your lungs. People who have bronchitis often cough up thick mucus, which can be discolored. Bronchitis may either be acute or chronic.
Acute bronchitis, also called a chest cold, is very common and usually improves within a week to 10 days without lasting effects. A cough may linger for weeks.
Chronic bronchitis, a more serious condition, is a constant irritation or inflammation of the lining of the bronchial tubes, often due to smoking. Chronic bronchitis is one type of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). The inflamed bronchial tubes produce mucus, leading to coughing and difficulty breathing. Poor air quality with the heat, breathing in air pollution, fumes, or dust over a long period of time may also cause chronic bronchitis.
Smoking as we all know can be deadly. Some of the following harsh facts from the CDC, show the importance of restraining from starting and/or quitting smoking, even if you’ve been a long-time smoker:
- Cigarette smoking causes more than 480,000 deaths each year in the United States. This is nearly one in five deaths.
- Smoking causes more deaths each year than the following causes combined:
- Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
- Illegal drug use
- Alcohol use
- Motor vehicle injuries
- Firearm-related incidents
- More than 10 times as many U.S. citizens have died prematurely from cigarette smoking than have died in all the wars fought by the United States.
- Smoking causes about 90% (or 9 out of 10) of all lung cancer deaths. More women die from lung cancer each year than from breast cancer.
- Smoking causes about 80% (or 8 out of 10) of all deaths from COPD.
- Cigarette smoking increases risk for death from all causes in men and women.
- The risk of dying from cigarette smoking has increased over the last 50 years in the U.S.
- Smokers are more likely than nonsmokers to develop heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer.
- Estimates show smoking increases the risk:
- For coronary heart disease by 2 to 4 times
- For stroke by 2 to 4 times
- Of men developing lung cancer by 25 times
- Of women developing lung cancer by 25.7 times
- Smoking causes diminished overall health, increased absenteeism from work, and increased health care utilization and cost.
- Smokers are at greater risk for diseases that affect the heart and blood vessels (cardiovascular disease).
- Smoking causes stroke and coronary heart disease, which are among the leading causes of death in the United States.
- Even people who smoke fewer than five cigarettes a day can have early signs of cardiovascular disease.
- Smoking damages blood vessels and can make them thicken and grow narrower. This makes your heart beat faster and your blood pressure go up. Clots can also form.
- A stroke occurs when:
- A clot blocks the blood flow to part of your brain;
- A blood vessel in or around your brain bursts.
- Blockages caused by smoking can also reduce blood flow to your legs and skin.
- Smoking can cause lung disease by damaging your airways and the small air sacs (alveoli) found in your lungs.
- Lung diseases caused by smoking include COPD, which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
- Cigarette smoking causes most cases of lung cancer.
- If you have asthma, tobacco smoke can trigger an attack or make an attack worse.
- Smokers are 12 to 13 times more likely to die from COPD than nonsmokers.
- Smoking can cause cancer almost anywhere in your body:
- Blood (acute myeloid leukemia)
- Colon and rectum (colorectal)
- Kidney and ureter
- Oropharynx (includes parts of the throat, tongue, soft palate, and the tonsils)
- Trachea, bronchus, and lung
- Smoking also increases the risk of dying from cancer and other diseases in cancer patients and survivors.
- If nobody smoked, one of every three cancer deaths in the United States would not happen.
- Smoking can make it harder for a woman to become pregnant. It can also affect her baby’s health before and after birth. Smoking increases risks for:
- Preterm (early) delivery
- Stillbirth (death of the baby before birth)
- Low birth weight
- Sudden infant death syndrome (known as SIDS or crib death)
- Ectopic pregnancy
- Orofacial clefts in infants
- Smoking can also affect men’s sperm, which can reduce fertility and increase risks for birth defects and miscarriage.
- Smoking can affect bone health. Women past childbearing years who smoke have weaker bones than women who never smoked. They are also at greater risk for broken bones.
- Smoking affects the health of your teeth and gums and can cause tooth loss.
- Smoking can increase your risk for cataracts (clouding of the eye’s lens that makes it hard for you to see). It can also cause age-related macular degeneration (AMD). AMD is damage to a small spot near the center of the retina, the part of the eye needed for central vision.
- Smoking is a cause of type 2 diabetes mellitus and can make it harder to control. The risk of developing diabetes is 30–40% higher for active smokers than nonsmokers.
- Smoking causes general adverse effects on the body, including inflammation and decreased immune function.
- Smoking is a cause of rheumatoid arthritis.
- Quitting smoking cuts cardiovascular risks. Just 1 year after quitting smoking, your risk for a heart attack drops sharply.
- Within 2 to 5 years after quitting smoking, your risk for stroke may reduce to about that of a nonsmoker’s.
- If you quit smoking, your risks for cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, and bladder drop by half within 5 years.
- Ten years after you quit smoking, your risk for dying from lung cancer drops by half.
Vaping, which is now deemed just as dangerous as cigarette smoking, has become very popular, especially with teens and young adults. In recent news, vaping has been the cause for a Florida teen’s collapsed lung, a Utah man put on life support after being diagnosed with vaping-related lung disease and the most recent vaping-related death of a woman in Kansas. She is the sixth person in the U.S do to die from a respiratory illness linked to vaping (source MSNBC). E-cigarettes are also linked to higher risk of stroke, heart attack, diseased arteries and cancer. (source: Healthy and Natural World.)
The American Heart Association recently wrote an article about the vaping epidemic in schools across the country. In that article, they state that according to the CDC, nearly 21% of high school students used e-cigarettes in 2018. That was an increase of nearly 78% in just one year. Among middle school students, the growth rate was 48.5%, from 3.3% to 4.9%.
If your child is vaping, please educate them on the dangers of this popular trend. It’s never too late to quit.
The CDC is urging everyone who vapes to stop until further research is done. Heed the warning signs and keep your lungs healthy.
We Can Help
If you are experiencing any chest pain or difficulty breathing from smoking or vaping, please call 911 or visit your nearest Surepoint Emergency Center.
For any other respiratory issues such as trouble breathing, catching your breath, wheezing, dizzy spells or excessive coughing, consult your doctor or seek treatment at any of our Surepoint Emergency Centers and/or Surepoint Family Medicine facilities. We treat respiratory problems and can have you breathing easy in no time.
For more information, or to find a location near you, go to SurepointER.com