Respiratory Health – Causes, Symptoms, Prevention & Treatment
It is impossible to overstate the importance of our respiratory system. Every part of our body is dependent on oxygen, and totally reliant on our respiratory system to supply it.
It is totally true that the most immediate factor in our existence is our next breath. Many things in life are optional or desired, but we can’t do without air.
Anyone who has had their life impacted by a serious respiratory illness or condition knows how debilitating it is. Even when it is not immediately life-threatening, any restriction on our oxygen availability or utilization has massive effects on our ability to do…anything.
Our lungs and the rest of our respiratory system are an interface between us and the world. As such, they are a target for microscopic enemies – viruses, bacteria and fungi – that thrive in the warm moist environment that our breathing system provides.
On top of that are the other living and non-living environmental impacts that can damage our health, such as pollens, asbestos, dust and pollution.
All of these factors can be enough to overwhelm a respiratory system that is well-cared for, yet to make it worse, many of us take very poor care of our respiratory health.
Smoking, poor diet and lack of exercise are some, but not all, of the ways we diminish the health of our natural breathing apparatus.
This guide will provide information on many of the factors that can cause damage to your respiratory health, how you can recognize them, and what you can do to help prevent them.
Common Respiratory Diseases and Illnesses
Health issues concerning the respiratory system are common. According to the World Health Organization, about 63 million people suffer from chronic respiratory illnesses.
Because the lungs are susceptible to viral and bacterial infections, respiratory illnesses have become a leading cause of death in the world.
Pollution, lifestyle, exposure to allergens and chemicals, as well as an individual’s genetics are just some of the usual factors contributing to lung diseases and illnesses.
Symptoms of respiratory problems can range from mild to severe and can strike both young and old alike.
Here are the most common respiratory diseases and illnesses.
Asthma is when a person experiences difficulty in breathing that is caused by the inflammation of the airways. As a result, asthmatics often suffer from dry cough, wheezing, shortness of breath, and tightness in the chest. Asthma can also be caused by an allergic reaction to allergens in the environment, such as dust and pollens.
This common respiratory illness is often diagnosed in childhood. However, adults can also experience a late onset of asthma, especially those who are over sixty years old.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) includes any illness that causes difficulty in breathing and not being able to exhale normally. Symptoms of COPD include shortness of breath and cough with sputum or the mucus from the lungs which commonly happens in the morning.
The onset of COPD can be difficult for the patient to detect, as it may not have any other symptoms aside from shortness of breath. Older patients are more likely to suffer from COPD, but the disease may have been persisting for years prior to being diagnosed.
COPD is usually linked to heavy smoking or being exposed to cigarette smoke.
Pneumonia is caused by a viral, bacterial, or fungal infection in the lungs’ air sacs. As a result, patients suffering from pneumonia experience fever, chills, cough, and shortness of breath which can range from mild to severe and can even be life-threatening to some people, especially for those with weakened immune systems.
Those with a history of smoking can also be more susceptible to severe pneumonia.
Chronic bronchitis is an illness under the umbrella of COPD, which is characterized by chronic cough with phlegm. In most cases, patients cough up sputum, especially in the morning. The sputum is caused by an increase in the output of the mucus glands found in the lungs.
Chronic bronchitis can either caused by a viral or bacterial infection and is a long-term disease that often goes undiagnosed.
Emphysema is another form of COPD disease wherein patients experience chronic coughing, shortness of breath, and pain in exhaling air from the lungs. Over time, emphysema can eventually lead to the failure of the lungs.
Heavy smokers are more susceptible to this disease since it is the cigarette smoke that damages the air sacs, trapping the air inside the lungs.
However, people who are constantly exposed to harmful irritants are also at risk of developing emphysema.
Cystic fibrosis is a hereditary respiratory disease that creates a thick and sticky mucus in the lungs. It is caused by a defective gene. The mucus clogs the air passage and obstructs the pancreas, making the skin almost salty-tasting.
The mucus can cause infections in the lungs, as well as chronic cough, poor growth rate, and lower life expectancy rate.
Tuberculosis is a highly infectious disease that is caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis. There are two kinds of tuberculosis - latent and active.
It is believed that most people have latent or undetected tuberculosis in their systems and that those with a weaker immune system or history of smoking can go on to develop active tuberculosis.
Symptoms include cough with bloody sputum at times, chest pains, weight loss, and excessive sweating at night.
Respiratory diseases can range from mild to severe, depending largely on the state of a person’s immune system. Smoking and exposure to harmful chemicals can also result in developing problems in the lungs.
In most cases, living a healthy and active lifestyle is an effective way we can reduce the risk of developing respiratory diseases.
Viral Respiratory Infections
The global pandemic COVID-19 has certainly put a spotlight on our respiratory health. However, viral respiratory infections are not new at all.
Nearly every single one of us has experienced a form of these infections, given that there are at least 200 strains of viruses that we can encounter in our lifetime.
Nobody is spared from the risk of viral respiratory infections. From babies to our grandmas, everyone is susceptible.
Cause of Viral Infections
Viral respiratory infections are caused by virus strains that can affect lung function and lead to respiratory illnesses such as colds. A person becomes infected through inhaling droplets expelled by another infected person through coughing or sneezing, which is called direct contact.
Another possible way to be infected is through indirect contact, or when you touch objects that have the infected droplets on them. If you touch them and then touch your face, you can accidentally inhale those infected droplets.
Common respiratory viruses include influenza virus, respiratory syncytial virus, parainfluenza virus, adenovirus, and the most common of them all, rhinovirus, which is more popularly called the common cold.
The incubation period for the virus will depend on the strain, but it is common to develop symptoms anywhere from 1-10 days from the initial exposure to the virus. In the case of COVID-19, the maximum incubation period is believed to be 14 days.
Most symptoms of viral respiratory infections are mild and subside on their own after a few days. Symptoms include fever, cough, sneezing, runny nose, and sore throat. Viral infections can also cause headaches, muscle aches, and generally feeling unwell, or body malaise.
Most people suffer from mild symptoms and improve only after a few sick days. However, the very young and the very old, as well as people whose immune systems are compromised, are more at risk of suffering severe or even extreme complications from viral infections, as their immune systems are weaker.
People from these vulnerable groups can develop life-threatening conditions such as pneumonia, croup, meningitis, and encephalitis when the viral infection worsens.
Younger children are more prone to viral respiratory infections since they haven’t developed antibodies for several of these viral strains.
There are no specific treatments for mild symptoms. Patients are advised to rest for a few days and up their fluid intake to loosen mucus and relieve nasal congestion.
Antibiotics are not beneficial for viral infections, but patients may take paracetamol for headache and fever. For severe cases, antiviral drugs may be taken as prescribed by the doctor.
When To See A Doctor
Since most viral infections are mild, a few sick days should help you get back on your feet and will also help ensure that you don’t get to spread the virus to others. But in some cases, viral infections warrant a trip to the doctor for advice, especially if the patient’s condition becomes worse.
Shortness of breath, difficulty in finishing a sentence, feeling very weak, confusion, and dehydration, are signs that the patient should go to the hospital or a doctor immediately.
The good news about viral infections, in general, is that the prevention and cure are largely in our hands, literally.
The human race has been fighting off viral infections for many thousands of years. Over time, we have developed antibodies and vaccines to help us fight off these infections.
Similarly, we have also developed habits and know-how that can assist us in avoiding getting infected.
As COVID-19 has affected the respiratory health of many people, there has been an urgency to try to control the spread of this deadly virus. Eventually, scientists will hopefully be able to develop a vaccine that can prevent the spread of these types of viruses.
However, in the meantime, be prepared and learn how to protect yourself.
Upper and Lower Respiratory Infections
The respiratory system is made up of different organs that are responsible for our breathing. Part of its anatomy is the respiratory tract, whose main function is to aid in the process of respiration, or the inhaling of oxygen and the expelling of carbon dioxide.
The respiratory tract is divided into two parts - the upper and lower respiratory tracts.
Both tracts work simultaneously to ensure that we are able to breathe properly. Different strains of viruses and bacteria can cause infections to the upper and lower tracts.
To some degree, the symptoms of infection of both tracts are similar. There are, however, differences that will distinguish one from another.
Here are some of the causes, symptoms, and other pertinent information regarding infections on both upper and lower respiratory tracts.
Parts of the Respiratory Tracts
The upper respiratory tract is comprised of the following:
The lower respiratory tract is comprised of the lungs and the bronchial tubes.
Causes Of Respiratory Infections
Infections that affect the upper respiratory system are often caused by a virus. Airborne viruses, as well as inhaling infected respiratory droplets, can cause a person to become infected.
Viral infections are highly contagious and in some cases, those infected don’t show symptoms until a few days later. Some of the most common respiratory viral strains are rhinovirus or the common cold, coronavirus, parainfluenza, and adenovirus.
However, viruses are not the only cause of respiratory infections, as bacteria can also cause the upper respiratory tract to be infected.
Lower respiratory infections can be caused by both viruses and bacteria, such as streptococcus and staphylococcus aureus. Fungal infections can also infect the lower respiratory tract.
External factors such as tobacco smoke, dust, allergens, and air pollution can make the lower respiratory tract more susceptible to infection and less able to mount a recovery.
Symptoms Of Respiratory Tract Infections
Both upper and lower respiratory tract infections can start out as a runny nose that can also be accompanied by a cough. Experiencing post-nasal drip, as well as laryngitis, or having a hoarse voice, are common symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections.
A low-grade fever and mild sore throat are additional symptoms of an infection in the lower respiratory tract.
It is possible to experience fever and chills and general body malaise for both upper and lower respiratory infections.
If symptoms of the infection are mild, the patient may take a few days of rest at home, in bed, if necessary, while also properly taking over-the-counter medicines that alleviate any of the symptoms. Most infections don’t warrant a visit to the doctor, and will usually clear on their own after a couple of days.
However, if the patient’s condition worsens and also experiencing difficulty in breathing, shortness of breath, constant fever with chills, and vomiting, it is time to see a doctor.
Who Are At Risk
People at most risk are those who have weak immune systems. Commonly, they are people who are either very young or very old, since their immune systems are not as robust compared to a young adult.
Patients who are immunocompromised because of underlying conditions are also at a higher risk of getting infected and experiencing more severe symptoms of the infection.
Preventing Upper and Lower Respiratory Infections
There are many ways in which upper and lower respiratory infections can be prevented. One preventive measure is through regular handwashing. Since viruses and bacteria often enter our bodies through our own hand to mouth contact, proper handwashing is one way we can reduce the risk of infection.
We should also avoid touching our face or eating with unwashed hands, even if they seem clean. Another way to help avoid infections from spreading is by exercising proper cough etiquette when in public.
Cover your mouth when coughing and sneezing in public to protect others from being infected. You can also wear a face mask to help ensure that other people won’t come in contact with your infected droplets.
Maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle can also help to protect you from getting infected. Boost your immune system by consuming foods that are rich in vitamin C, as well as taking over-the-counter vitamin C supplements.
Regular exercise and quitting smoking can help in boosting your body’s natural defense mechanism.
With the COVID-19 pandemic currently affecting millions of lives all over the world, taking care of ourselves and protecting ourselves from sickness should be everyone’s priority.
Shortness of Breath - Symptoms, Causes, Treatment
While countless love songs and ballads have romanticized the term “take my breath away,” medically speaking, dyspnea is a serious matter. Dyspnea, more commonly referred to as shortness of breath, can be a sign of an underlying medical condition that needs to be treated.
Experiencing dyspnea often from doing simple physical activities can also be an indication of poor health.
Causes of Dyspnea
The common cause of dyspnea is overexertion. When we perform heavy physical activities such as running or swimming, experiencing shortness of breath is normal. But healthy individuals will be able to recover from dyspnea after just a few minutes.
Underlying medical conditions can also be a cause of dyspnea. Patients with heart problems and low blood pressure are more likely to experience frequent bouts of dyspnea.
Similarly, people suffering from respiratory illnesses and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases such as asthma, emphysema, bronchitis, pneumonia, and pulmonary embolism are also more susceptible to dyspnea.
Other causes relating to a person’s overall physical health, such as smoking and obesity, are also linked to dyspnea. People who are experiencing stress and anxiety can also feel a shortness of breath.
External factors are also possible causes of dyspnea. Being at a high altitude, where there is less oxygen, can lead to dyspnea, especially if the person is not used to experiencing low levels of oxygen. Dyspnea can also be a consequence of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Symptoms of Dyspnea
People who are generally healthy may experience mild and temporary symptoms of dyspnea. However, patients with heart and lung problems can experience feeling suffocated and labored, shallow, and rapid breathing, as well as feeling tightness in the chest.
Wheezing, palpitations, and intense coughing can also be experienced as a result of the patient’s underlying medical condition.
When to Seek Medical Advice
Since dyspnea is often linked to underlying conditions, seeking medical is advice is recommended when the patient experiences shortness of breath frequently in order to further understand the real cause behind their dyspnea.
Another indication the patient should see a doctor is when they experience dyspnea while doing activities that didn’t cause shortness of breath in the past. Similarly, if the patient experiences a sudden onset of dyspnea without any obvious triggers, then it is best to check with a doctor.
Emergency treatment is necessary if the patient has a fever, chills, cough, or wheezing along with dyspnea. The same goes for swelling of feet and ankles and having difficulty breathing when lying down, as well as lightheadedness and chest pain.
Treating dyspnea also means treating its underlying cause. Pulmonary and cardiac rehabilitation will be needed for those whose dyspnea is caused by cardiac or respiratory issues. Patients may be advised to use a portable tank to manage dyspnea. Breathing exercises and techniques can also be beneficial.
If the cause of dyspnea is an unhealthy lifestyle, then starting a healthy diet and exercising regularly are recommended to reduce instances of dyspnea. Quitting smoking is also a very good way to lessen bouts of dyspnea.
Dyspnea and COVID-19
With the onset of COVID-19, people have become much more aware of their respiratory health. The World Health Organization has already identified dyspnea as one possible symptom of the virus in severe cases.
Doctors believe that dyspnea could be a sign that the lungs are already inflamed. When this happens, pneumonia can develop and dyspnea can worsen.
In relation to COVID-19, dyspnea is not a specific symptom, meaning patients who are experiencing dyspnea only and not other symptoms related to COVID-19 may not necessarily be infected with the virus.
It possible that dyspnea can be present because of anxiety. Observe for other symptoms first before contacting a medical professional.
But if you are still concerned about the existence of dyspnea because of the virus, and if you have other symptoms that could be related to COVID-19, you can check with your doctor to see if you are qualified to take a COVID-19 test.
Frequent dyspnea is more than just experiencing breathlessness. It may point to other more serious conditions that need to be diagnosed and treated properly. It can also be an indication that you need to practice a healthier lifestyle, such as dieting, exercising, or quitting smoking.
Either way, dyspnea can be our body’s way of telling us to pay more attention to our health.
Pneumonia - Symptoms, Causes, Treatment
Billions of people suffer from pneumonia each year.
This type of lung infection remains one of the top reasons for both adults and children alike to be hospitalized. In 2017 alone, pneumonia accounted for 15% of deaths among children five years and under worldwide.
About a million adults in the US become hospitalized each year because of pneumonia. With COVID-19 being experienced on a global scale, the statistics for pneumonia-related hospitalizations and deaths are expected to rise.
But what exactly happens when you have pneumonia? Let’s take a look at what causes this lung infection, as well as its symptoms and treatment.
What Is Pneumonia
Pneumonia is the infection of one or both lungs, which causes air sacs, called alveoli, to be filled with pus and become inflamed. When this happens, patients experience difficulty breathing as the oxygen supply to the bloodstream is affected.
What Causes Pneumonia
Pneumonia can either be caused by a viral, bacterial, or fungal infection. The germs that cause pneumonia are highly contagious and can be spread through airborne droplets from sneezing and coughing.
Bacterial pneumonia can be caused by various bacterial strains, the most common being Streptococcus pneumoniae. Influenza is the most common respiratory virus that can cause pneumonia.
The respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and rhinovirus or the common cold can also cause pneumonia. Fungi from bird droppings or soil can also cause pneumonia which can be severe for people with weak immune systems.
Symptoms of Pneumonia
Symptoms of pneumonia can range from mild to severe, depending on different factors such as the type of infection, age, and overall wellbeing. Mild cases will clear up in a matter of days, without the need to see a doctor.
However, infants, older people, and people with weakened immune systems can suffer from severe symptoms.
More severe symptoms can include confusion or changes in mental awareness. These are common among older people. Infants who have pneumonia may not have these common symptoms, or they may not be as easily discerned.
The most common indications of pneumonia among infants are fever and cough and being restless. With older children, wheezing can also be a sign of pneumonia, in addition to the other symptoms.
Types of Pneumonia
The types of pneumonia are dependent on how the patient acquired the infection. Pneumonia can be acquired during the course of a patient’s hospitalization, called hospital-acquired pneumonia.
If the patient acquired the infection outside a hospital setting, then it is considered to be community-acquired pneumonia. Other types of pneumonia are ventilator-acquired and aspiration pneumonia.
Treatment and Management Of Pneumonia
Treating and managing pneumonia depends on the cause of the infection. If the cause is a bacterial strain, patients are given oral antibiotics to be taken over the course of several days.
Patients are instructed to finish the course of medication regardless of whether they start feeling better, in order to clear out the bacteria completely.
Viral pneumonia can be treated with antiviral drugs if needed, which can last up to several weeks. However, most symptoms of viral pneumonia can clear in a matter of days and can often be managed at home.
Taking over-the-counter medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen for pain relief may be taken. Fungal pneumonia can be addressed by antifungal drugs which are taken over several weeks.
If the patient is hospitalized due to pneumonia, intravenous antibiotics will usually be administered.
Getting vaccinated still remains the best defense against viruses and bacteria that can cause pneumonia. There are several types of vaccines that correspond to different types and strains of infection. Not all vaccines can cover all types of viruses and bacterial strains.
Symptoms are likely to be more severe and pneumonia can be more frequent without vaccination. Other preventive measures include regular handwashing and keeping a healthy lifestyle to strengthen the immune system.
Pneumonia is a common illness, and yet it remains a threat to health and life. While most people can recover from pneumonia, there are also those who are more at risk and pneumonia may lead to more complications. Pneumonia is a serious illness but can still be prevented.
Asthma - Symptoms, Causes, Treatment
Asthma is one of the most common lung diseases in the world.
It is estimated that at least 339 million people around the world suffer from asthma, and it is more prevalent among children. In the United States alone, one out of twelve children is diagnosed with asthma.
Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the lungs. As the lungs’ airways become inflamed, the patient experiences difficulty in breathing, making physical activities cumbersome or, in some cases, even impossible to perform.
People with asthma are considered immunocompromised and are at a larger risk for respiratory infections such as COVID-19 since many of asthma’s symptoms also worsen the symptoms of a virus in the body.
Furthermore, an asthma attack closely resembles some of the signs of COVID-19. To better understand what asthma is, let’s take a look at the disease’s symptoms, causes, and how asthma attacks can be prevented.
Symptoms of Asthma
Individuals diagnosed with asthma often experience bouts of coughing, at times combined with wheezing. They can also feel tightness in the chest, as well as shortness of breath. In some cases, these symptoms are accompanied by fatigue.
Not all people with asthma will experience all of these symptoms. In addition, the severity of these symptoms is further classified depending on the intensity of the symptoms, as well as the frequency of asthma attacks.
Types of Asthma
Asthma can be categorized according to different types. The types of asthma are:
Bronchial Asthma - is the most common type of asthma. Most asthma attacks can be classified as bronchial asthma and the symptoms are almost all of the ones listed earlier.
Allergic Asthma - also called extrinsic asthma. This type of asthma is triggered by allergens present in the environment such as dust, pet dander, food allergies, and molds. Allergic asthma can also be considered seasonal asthma as it is closely related to seasonal allergies.
Non-allergic Asthma - also called intrinsic asthma. This type of asthma is caused by irritants in the air, such as smoke, air pollution, a viral infection, air fresheners, and products with strong odors such as cleaning products and perfume.
Occupational Asthma - this type of asthma is closely linked to a person’s workplace. Industrial environments often contain irritants that can trigger asthma attacks. Triggers include dust, dyes, gases, fumes, rubber and latex, and industrial chemicals.
Nocturnal Asthma - as the name suggests, this type of asthma occurs only during nighttime. Similar triggers such as dust, pet dander, and other irritants present in the environment can trigger nocturnal asthma. In some cases, even a person’s sleep cycle can cause attacks.
Cough-variant Asthma - this type of asthma is characterized by a chronic, persistent dry cough. Other symptoms of asthma, such as wheezing and shortness of breath are not typically present in cough-variant asthma. However, a severe attack can also trigger other more common symptoms.
Causes of Asthma
There are several causes of asthma, depending on its type. For most people with asthma, their condition has a genetic influence and runs in their family.
Having a history of viral infections as a baby can weaken a person’s lungs and are they are more likely to develop asthma in the long term. Frequent exposure to allergens can also lead to asthma.
Triggers in the environment, such as seasonal allergens and extreme weather conditions, can cause asthma attacks. Variables such as exercising or doing heavy physical activities, illnesses, and even emotions (being overly excited or when crying heavily) can also trigger asthma attacks.
Strengthening the affected individual's lungs is the main focus of long-term treatment for asthma. Through various breathing exercises with an occupational therapist, a person with asthma can expand the capacity of their lungs, making it easier to breathe.
First aid treatments can reduce symptoms as they happen. Using inhalers, nebulizers, and bronchodilators can help the patient breathe normally during an attack. Anti-inflammatory medication can address the inflammation in the lungs which can also aid in breathing normally.
Preventing asthma attacks starts with avoiding triggers. Knowing the type of asthma a person has can help in avoiding irritants that can trigger asthma. Reducing exposure to these irritants and allergen can help in decreasing the frequency of asthma attacks.
Allergen immunotherapy is an injectable medication that can strengthen a person’s lungs and reduce sensitivity to triggers. Taking prescribed preventive medication daily can also help in lessening the frequency of attacks.
Asthma is a chronic lung disease that affects millions of people worldwide. However, with the right management of symptoms and medication, having asthma is no longer considered a life sentence.
How Do You Know if Your Lungs are Damaged?
The state of your lungs is affected by a variety of factors, but the environment and your lifestyle play major roles in your respiratory health.
To better understand the health of your lungs, there are warning signs that indicate you may have a problem with your lung health and/or possible damage.
Warning Signs of Lung Damage
The following are considered warning signs of possible lung damage.
Causes of Lung Damage
Environmental factors play a big role in a person’s lung health. While some of these factors can be avoided, others are part and parcel of an individual’s occupation. Unhealthy lifestyle habits can also put someone at a higher risk of damaging their lungs over time.
It is known that smoking is the foremost reason for lung damage. Unfortunately, smoking affects not only those who smoke, but exposure to second and third-hand smoke can also cause lung damage.
Apart from the obvious causes of lung damage, such as injuries caused by accident, some causes of lung damage are not so apparent. Take molds for example. Molds are potentially harmful to a person’s lungs, as molds release spores, or tiny particles, into the air. Spores can cause harm, especially if you have weak lungs.
Another possible cause of lung damage is radon. Radon is a type of gas that cannot be seen nor smelled. This type of gas can cause lung damage when the particles are inhaled.
Asbestos is another chemical that can be potentially harmful to anyone’s lungs. Asbestos was commonly used in insulations and fire-proofing materials, as well as in car brakes. It produces tiny fibers that are invisible to the eyes. When inhaled, asbestos can scar the lungs, causing a chronic lung disease called asbestosis. It can also trigger the onset of lung cancer.
Air pollution is another factor that can damage the lungs. Smog from car exhausts, dust from carpets, even pet dander, or the tiny particles of hair and skin that animals naturally shed, all contribute to air pollution and may cause lung damage in the longer term.
Who Are At Risk?
Smokers are at the highest risk of contracting lung damage. People who have a history of alcohol abuse are also at a higher risk. Having pre-existing lung conditions such as asthma and chronic obstruction pulmonary disease are also known to contribute to lung damage. Obesity can also increase a person’s risk of developing lung damage.
Lung damage is a fairly avoidable medical condition if you know what can cause it. Having a healthy lifestyle and avoiding environmental factors such as air pollution can decrease the risk of suffering from lung damage in the future.
Can Damaged Lungs Heal?
Problems with respiratory health are a major cause of disability and death all over the world. The lungs are the main organs of the respiratory system so keeping the lungs healthy is an integral part of a person’s overall wellness.
Several factors can affect the health of our lungs, such as lifestyle choices and environmental factors.
Firstly, let’s take a quick look at the most common ways lungs can be damaged.
Smoking is the leading cause of lung damage. It damages the cells that line the lungs, making the lungs weaker and more susceptible to infections. The smoke is filled with cancer-causing chemicals that can immediately affect the lungs once inhaled. The smoke does not only affect the smoker’s lungs but also non-smoking bystanders' lungs can be damaged.
Asbestos, radon, dust, and air pollution are just some of the environmental factors that can damage the lungs. Prolonged exposure to dust and other allergens such as pet dander and molds can weaken and harm the lungs.
How to Heal Damage to Your Lungs
The good news is that the lungs have the ability to repair much damage on their own if we help them and are proactive. To do that, we have to be willing to make the necessary habit changes. Here are some of the ways we can heal damaged lungs.
This seems to be pretty straightforward, but it can be a difficult one for those who have been smoking for years. However, the benefits of quitting smoking far outweigh the effort required to do so. Do you know that you can begin to repair the damage in your lungs caused by smoking in as little as a few hours? Scientists believe that the lungs have the capacity to heal the damage on their own, as long as the person quits smoking.
Inhaling the water vapor from steam can help loosen the mucus in the lungs’ airways. It also provides rapid relief to people experiencing difficulty in breathing by opening up the airways and breaking up the mucus that fills the lungs.
Similar to steam therapy, mucus draining aims to release mucus from the lungs but through different postural techniques. Mucus draining can be done while lying on your back, on your side, or on your stomach and by practicing a breathing exercise called 1:2 breathing, wherein exhaling takes twice as much time as inhaling.
It is believed that practicing postural mucus draining for a few minutes every day can improve lung function and prevent lung infections.
It is no secret that exercising regularly is good for anyone’s health. Through exercise, the body increases its breathing rate, which results in having a greater oxygen supply. It also strengthens the lungs and improves circulation by getting rid of excess carbon dioxide in the body.
Consuming healthy food is another way to heal damaged lungs. Eating foods rich in anti-inflammatory properties such as turmeric, green leafy vegetables, blueberries, walnuts, and beans can help reduce the inflammation of the airways in the lungs and can aid in proper breathing.
Green tea, which is rich in antioxidants, may not only reduce inflammation but can also help protect lung tissue from inhaled irritants.
Lung damage may sound as if the consequences are out of your control, but there are ways to help your lungs heal. Change in lifestyle and mindset can be beneficial, not just to your lungs but to your overall wellness.
Looking into natural ways to heal your lungs can also help, as these are nature’s way of helping you heal your body. Not only do you achieve a healthier respiratory system, but you also get to experience renewed physical and mental health.
How Can You Protect Your Lungs
Problems with the lungs and respiratory system, in general, have long been a primary cause of hospitalization and deaths worldwide.
Because of the several common illnesses that can affect the respiratory system, many products have come onto the market, claiming to help clean the lungs for better respiratory health.
However, many people are not aware that using these products, while helpful to some, is not entirely necessary. This is because our lungs have the capacity to clean themselves on their own.
After someone has recovered from an illness caused by a viral or bacterial infection, doctors believe that the lungs can clean and even greatly repair themselves.
As with all aspects of human health, prevention is always better than cure. Although the lungs do have a large degree of self-healing ability, any damage to the lungs has an impact on the vitality and health of the whole body.
Oxygen availability is vital to our wellbeing, and we rely on our lungs to enable that. When our cells are deprived of oxygen, both short and long-term health can be impacted.
Lung damage can occur due to many different reasons. Most of these can be protected against or prevented. Some are totally within our sphere of control, while others are harder to prevent.
Almost all can be mitigated against to some degree. Here are some of the ways we can prevent causing or allowing damage to occur to our lungs.
Protect Yourself from Infection
While the lungs can recover from viral infections on their own, some other infections can leave permanent scarring. It is still best to avoid getting infected in order to keep the lungs healthy. Protect yourself from infections by getting vaccinated for flu and pneumonia regularly and avoiding contact with people who are sick.
Keeping yourself and your environment clean through proper and frequent handwashing, as well as sanitizing items that you often use, such as cellphones, doorknobs, and light switches can help you steer clear of infections.
Air pollution can weaken the lungs and can cause long-term damage to the respiratory system. Pollutants such as engine smoke, fire, and even dust can affect the ability to breathe properly.
While completely avoiding pollution may seem impossible, especially if you live in an urban city, there are always ways in which we can reduce the impact of its harmful effects.
These can be basic but have a large effect, such as more frequent vacuuming to help reduce dust inhalation. It may be possible to install an air purifier in your home to get rid of harmful pollutants in the air. Make conscious and wise choices when out of the house.
If walking, stand further back from the road to minimize the intake of dangerous particulates from motor vehicle exhausts. As much as possible, time your excursions to avoid peak-hours and high-volume times.
Embrace A Healthy Lifestyle
Alongside quitting smoking, practicing a healthy lifestyle can greatly improve lung health. Eating foods that are rich in antioxidants such as green leafy vegetables can help protect yourself from damage caused by smoke and air pollution.
Drinking green tea, which contains antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, has been proven to reduce the risk of chronic pulmonary diseases.
Apart from eating healthy food, regular exercise is very beneficial to the lungs. Cardiovascular exercise such as running or aerobics will strengthen the lungs and improve respiratory function.
Changing our habits and our way of life can have a huge impact not just on our lungs but to our overall physical wellness, too. Start on these habits today to enjoy the benefits of cleaner and healthier lungs.
Quit Smoking and Avoid Passive Smoking
If you are a long-time smoker, quitting the habit is the first step towards clean lungs and the one that will have the biggest impact. Smoking affects the lungs by destroying and inflaming the air sacs in the lungs, causing emphysema or chronic bronchitis and even permanent structural damage to the lungs.
According to doctors, quitting smoking as soon as possible increases the rate and degree of healing. A large scale study revealed that people who had stopped smoking for 20 years had much lower chances of contracting chronic lung diseases than those still smoking.
Also, after that period, the lungs have regained their function as if they hadn’t been affected by smoking at all.
If you are a non-smoker, you should take steps to protect your lungs from second-hand smoke. Numerous research studies have shown that inhaling second-hand smoke is just as harmful, or can even be more harmful than smoking itself.
Similarly, vaping can also be harmful, as it has been shown to decrease the lungs’ ability to clear out mucus, which can encourage respiratory infections.
Vitamins and Foods for Keeping the Lungs Healthy
A healthy lifestyle begins with eating foods that nourish your body and not toxify it. Fruits and vegetables are packed with nutrients that are optimal in achieving overall wellness.
Several illnesses can be avoided by having a clean and healthy diet. Our respiratory health can greatly benefit from different foods and vitamins in order to keep them functioning properly and be protected from illnesses.
Here are some fruits, vegetables, and vitamins that you can include in your diet to help keep your lungs strong and robust.
Broccoli is rich in antioxidants and Vitamin C, both essential for lung health. It also contains carotenoids, folate, and phytochemicals that help keep the lungs healthy by fighting off damaging chemicals. Broccoli is good for people who are suffering from chronic pulmonary diseases, as it also has anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce swelling in the lungs caused by COPD illnesses.
Apricots are not only delicious, but they also help protect your lungs and help keep them strong. The sweet fruit is filled with vitamins and minerals such as beta-carotene and lycopene, as well as anti-inflammatory, antibacterial properties that can lower the risks of infections and chronic lung diseases.
Berries, especially acai and blueberries, are great for keeping the lungs healthy and free from diseases. Berries are rich in antioxidants that can help fight damaging free radicals that affect the lungs. These fruits can also help boost the immune system to help prevent infections.
Cayenne pepper contains high levels of capsaicin which regulate lung secretions. Capsaicin can also protect the mucus membranes in the upper and lower respiratory tract from infection. Cayenne pepper contains beta-carotene that can aid in reducing the frequency of asthma attacks.
Turmeric is known for its anti-inflammatory properties found in its curcumin component.
Drinking turmeric tea can reduce inflammation in the airways, thus can be beneficial for relieving symptoms of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases.
Walnuts are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids that can fight symptoms of the different respiratory illnesses caused by inflammation in the lungs. Eating a handful of walnuts daily can help keep the lungs strong and protected from inflammatory ailments.
Ginger is another food that is rich in anti-inflammatory properties. Ginger can help detoxify the lungs by eliminating harmful pollutants present in the respiratory system. It can also improve air circulation in the respiratory system and unclog air passages to relieve congestion.
Vitamin A is essential for making sure our bodies are strong and healthy. It supports cell growth, not only of the lungs but also of the heart and kidneys. Vitamin A has been used to help repair lung tissues damaged by toxins.
Having enough vitamin A in the body helps provide the lungs the capacity to repair on their own. An increase in vitamin A intake can help patients suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases.
Vitamin C is well-known for its immune-boosting capabilities, which can protect your lungs from infections. Because vitamin C is an antioxidant, it helps in eliminating free radicals and toxins in the body, particularly in the lungs.
The majority of diseases related to the lungs are caused by harmful chemicals. Taking vitamin C supplements and eating foods that are rich in vitamin C can be a great way to maintain lung health.
Vitamin E, which is commonly derived from vegetable oil, is believed to be effective in lowering the risk of contracting chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases.
Studies have shown that long-term intake of vitamin E supplements can help reduce the chances of getting COPD as a person ages, and COPD is more common among older patients.
Vitamin E can also help neutralize toxins in the lungs and other organs in the body.
A healthy diet is essential in keeping our bodies strong and healthy. Making sure that we eat foods that are full of nutrients can help us in maintaining the proper function of all the body’s systems.
Foods that contain antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties help ensure that our lungs and other organs in the body are working well.
Combined with regular exercise and healthy habits, we can ensure that our lungs and our entire bodies are in their best possible shape.
Every day, our bodies wage a silent war against microscopic invaders that use our bodies for their growth and transmission and do us terrible damage in return.
We deal with colds and flu constantly. Every so often, a new threat raises its head and frightens us into an increased awareness of how fragile our respiratory health can be.
History tells us of the destruction that respiratory infections have caused humanity in the past. The latest coronavirus and its subsequent disease, COVID-19, has brought respiratory health to the front and center of awareness.
Governments, health organizations, and medical professionals are doing what they can, or at least what they think they should do, with the knowledge they have.
However, there is much we can do at a personal level to maintain and improve our respiratory health. This knowledge can help us to prepare ourselves and our families, and hopefully, this will enable us to be less fearful and more in control.