Know the Facts this Lung Cancer Awareness Month

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in men and women each year in the United States. Despite that fact, lung cancer receives 3-7 times less federal research funding per death than other well-known cancers. While smoking increases your lung cancer risk, many people diagnosed with lung cancer have never smoked. No matter the cause, people with lung cancer deserve the same attention and focus on new treatments and cures as other patients.

November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month, a good time to talk about the disease and consider screening. Some of the most common signs and symptoms linked to lung cancer include:

  • A cough that won’t go away
  • Coughing up blood
  • Chest, back or shoulder pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Hoarseness
  • Being tired
  • Weight loss

If you or someone you know has symptoms or may be at risk for lung cancer, talk with your health care provider about your concerns and to determine whether you are a good candidate for lung cancer screening.

There are a number of ways to help prevent lung cancer:

1) Quit or do not ever start using tobacco: If you smoke or use tobacco in any form, quit. As soon as you quit, your body begins to repair the damage done by smoking.
2) Avoid secondhand smoke: Make your home and car smoke-free. Encourage family, friends and co-workers to quit smoking.
3) Test your home for radon: Simple, inexpensive test kits are available at most home improvement stores.

Let’s Talk About Living Better with COPD

November is National COPD Awareness Month, a time to talk about the disease and raise awareness around symptoms and treatment. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a lung disease that causes difficulty breathing and shortness of breath due to airflow blockage. COPD affects nearly 16 million Americans, and millions more live with undiagnosed symptoms. Earlier diagnosis can help those living with COPD begin to improve their health and quality of life.

COPD may be a large burden on an individual. Without proper management and education, COPD can affect all sorts of activities of daily living. Anxiety and depression among COPD patients and their caregivers only make the problem worse. If you are living with COPD, it is important to recognize any changes in your symptoms and any limitations on your activities to better manage day-to-day living with COPD. The following are recommendations for living well everyday with COPD.

Recognize the importance of practicing prevention strategies

It is important to monitor changes to physical and mental health when living with COPD. Below is a list of prevention recommendations:

  • Get vaccinated (annual influenza and routine pneumonia);
  • Wash your hands routinely. Stay home when you are ill;
  • Stop smoking if you currently do, and eliminate exposure to secondhand smoke;
  • Review your medication list with your health care providers to ensure the list is current and you know how to properly use your medications;
  • Ensure you have a sufficient supply of medication at home, especially during winter;
  • Be aware of changes in mental health and communicate any changes to your health care provider and informal caregiver (spouse, child, etc.).

Monitor symptoms of COPD

People living with COPD should track symptoms and share any changes with a health care provider:

  • Please share any increase in coughing or difficulty breathing with your healthcare provider;
  • If a new medication is not working for you and not minimizing your symptoms, please tell your health care provider;
  • It is always okay to obtain a second opinion.

Anxiety and depression are common in patients with COPD and their caregivers

Mental health may impact someone’s ability to manage his or her COPD. It is important to be aware of the following:

  • Anxiety and depression in COPD patients is associated with increased COPD flare-ups, increased hospitalizations, longer lengths of a hospital stay, and decreased quality of life;
  • Be an active part of your care team. Be proactive with your physical AND mental health care;
  • Maintain physical activity, especially in fall and winter. Physical activity can have positive benefits on physical health and mental well-being—make sure to talk to health care providers about physical activities you can do indoors or at home.

If you care for someone living with COPD, it’s important to also take care of your own well-being. View RHA’s Caregiver’s Toolkit to learn more about ways you can help support those you care for while taking time for yourself.

If you live with COPD or want to learn more, sign-up to receive our Inspiration COPD Newsletter.

COPD and Lung Viruses

As the season transitions from summer to fall, we will see more than the leaves change and cooler weather; we also expect to see a rise in respiratory viruses. People living with COPD or other lung diseases can be more susceptible to experiencing severe illness if they contract a lung virus. The following are a couple of the most common respiratory viruses and ways to protect yourself from them.

The Flu

The flu is a respiratory illness which infects the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs. It is spread through tiny droplets when infected people cough, sneeze, and talk. It can also spread when a person touches a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touches their own mouth, nose, or eyes. Flu season generally runs from October to May, but timing can vary.

Common symptoms include fever, cough, fatigue, headache, muscle aches, and sore throat, and is different from a common cold in that these symptoms usually come on suddenly.

Getting a flu shot is the best way to protect yourself! You may experience mild symptoms from the flu shot—this is your body developing its response to the inactivated or weakened virus. When vaccinated people are exposed to the virus, their bodies can fight it off or reduce its impact, so they only experience mild symptoms. High dose flu shots are available for some people 65 and older.

High dose vaccines contain four times as much flu virus antigen than the standard flu shot. Your doctor will help you decide which flu shot will best support your needs.

COVID-19

Experts are concerned about COVID-19 variants and the flu circulating simultaneously. There is a chance that a person could get both viruses at the same time. If you have any symptoms, contact your doctor about getting a COVID-19 test. Flu and COVID-19 have similar symptoms, so testing can help identify which virus it is.

Vaccines substantially decrease the risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19 and help protect our communities. The more people who get vaccinated, the less likely it is that variants can spread. If you qualify for the COVID-19 booster shot, make plans to get that as soon as you can.

If you live in an area that has a high rate of the COVID-19, you should also wear your mask indoors and in public places. This is especially true if you are in a group that is more vulnerable to respiratory diseases. Until vaccination rates increase in the United States, wearing a mask is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from COVID-19 variants regardless of vaccination status.

RSV

Syncytial Virus (or RSV) is a virus that can cause mild, cold-like symptoms. It usually spreads through droplets from coughs or sneezes, and it can survive on surfaces. Older adults, especially those with underlying heart or lung disease, and infants are most at risk of experiencing severe symptoms.

Common symptoms include runny nose, decrease in appetite, fever, cough, wheezing or whistling breath, and sneezing. These symptoms can lead to other serious conditions such as pneumonia, asthma flare-ups, COPD exacerbations, congestive heart failure, etc.

To protect yourself, make sure you and loved ones cover coughs and sneezes with tissues or elbows, wash your hands and use hand sanitizer, avoid close contact with infected people, and clean potential contaminated/high touch surfaces (like counters, doorknobs, light switches, etc.). As respiratory viruses spread, wear your mask when you go out into public spaces and stay home if you are feeling sick. To further protect your lungs, remember to set boundaries with loved ones if they are feeling sick as well.

Six Ways to Keep Your Lungs Healthy

keep your lungs health

October is National Healthy Lung Month, a great time to raise awareness about lung disease and talk about ways you can keep your lungs healthy.

It’s easy to take your lung health for granted until you get sick or have trouble breathing. Here are a few ways you can protect your lungs:

  • Talk to your doctor about any changes in your lung health or symptoms like coughing or difficulty breathing.
  • Ask your doctor if a lung cancer screening is right for you.
  • If you smoke, consider quitting. After quitting, you gain health benefits such as improved lung function and improved circulation. Over time, your risk for certain lung diseases will also go down.
  • Prevent infection and stay healthy by getting a COVID-19 vaccination and an annual flu shot.
  • Stay active and exercise regularly. Talk to your doctor before beginning a new exercise routine.
  • If you live with lung diseases like asthma or COPD, get to know the ways you can manage your condition.

Want to learn more about ways you can keep your lungs healthy? Click here to explore other resources.

Respiratory Therapists are Lung Health Heroes

October 24-30 is Respiratory Care Week – a time to celebrate respiratory therapists who work tirelessly helping those living with lung diseases breathe easier. Whether testing for lung function in a young child with asthma, or helping someone with COPD use an oxygen tank, respiratory therapists give people the power to take control and live to the fullest.

Their work is especially important considering how common lung diseases are in the United States:

• 25 million people live with asthma
• 16 million live with COPD and another 16 million have undiagnosed symptoms
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths among men and women

Respiratory therapists help people better understand and manage their illnesses, allowing them to live without distraction from symptoms. They also provide treatments to those in need of care, improving lung health and way of life.

For respiratory therapists like Rose Riggins, CRTT of AMITA LaGrange in Illinois, it’s way more than a job – it’s getting to know people, their lives and their stories.

“Working with the patients throughout the years has made them feel like family,” she says.

If you are living with lung disease, here are some of respiratory therapists’ most common tips for preventing additional complications and living the healthiest way possible:

• Get a flu shot every year to prevent additional complications of lung disease
• Live smoke-free and avoid secondhand smoke or close contact with smokers
• Eat right to maintain the most energy for staying healthy
• Avoid chemicals – like scented candles and harsh household cleaners – that may cause lung flare-ups
Monitor air quality and avoid the outdoors on poor air quality days

Join RHA this week and every day in saying thank you to respiratory therapists everywhere!

To learn more about becoming a respiratory therapist, view these resources.

Skokie Flavored Vaping Product Ban Falls Short

For Immediate Release

September 24, 2021

Contact: Erica Krutsch

[email protected]

Respiratory Health Association Statement on Skokie’s Ban of Certain Flavored Vaping Products

Skokie, IL – This week the village of Skokie passed an ordinance banning the sale of certain flavored vaping products within village limits. The ordinance is part of a local effort to curb tobacco use by teens, as recent surveys have shown that over 80 percent of e-cigarette users between ages 12 to 17 report flavoring as a primary reason for using a tobacco product.

Notably, the new law does not restrict the sale of menthol flavorings.

In response to the ordinance, Respiratory Health Association issued the following statement:

“Respiratory Health Association applauds the village of Skokie for taking steps to limit access to some flavored vaping products that disproportionately drive teen tobacco use today. Nicotine is an addictive, dangerous drug that harms brain development and poses other significant health risks. We only wish the ordinance had followed the science and banned menthol flavoring— one of the preferred flavors among the teens Skokie is trying to protect. In fact, research suggests that banning some flavors while still allowing menthol flavoring will simply lead to young people switching to menthol products.

The vaping industry’s illegal marketing to children has been well documented, and one of the industry’s largest players, JUUL, has been sued by the FDA for making illegal claims about the safety of their products. Additionally, no level of chemical aerosol inhalation is good for the lungs, and other long-term health impacts of these products are completely unknown.

The soothing sensation of menthol-flavored tobacco makes it easier to inhale and potentially harder to quit.  Because menthol products feel less harsh, they have greater appeal to new smokers and young people.[i]

We hope the village of Skokie will continue to develop additional measures that deter youth nicotine use, improve health equity, and protect vulnerable communities.”

[i] https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/tobacco_industry/menthol-cigarettes/index.html

Protect Your Lungs from Summer Air Pollution

The summer months generally have more days with poor air quality. Ground-level ozone (smog) levels increase due to warmer temperatures, which can lead to difficulty breathing. This summer has been no different — and has also featured additional air pollution from wildfires in the U.S.

Poor air quality can be bad for anyone. However, it is especially concerning for vulnerable populations like children, the elderly, and people living with lung disease. Periodically, the Illinois EPA will call an air pollution action day to indicate particularly bad air quality. On these days labeled “unhealthy for sensitive groups,” people included should try to avoid strenuous physical activity, stay cool inside, and hydrate.

Everyone can take steps on action days to reduce air pollution and protect people in their communities, including:

  • Limit driving if you can — consider walking, biking, or working from home if possible.
  • If driving, avoid idling, and try to run errands after 7 pm when sunlight is not as strong.
  • Avoid using gasoline-powered equipment.
  • Set your thermostat up 2 degrees to limit air pollution from fossil fuel power plants.
  • Turn off and unplug electronics not in use.
  • Do not burn leaves and other yard waste.
  • Sign-up to receive air quality forecasts via email at enviroflash.info.

Keep an eye on local news and weather alerts or visit airnow.gov, which also provides daily air quality updates by location. As a lung health advocate, sharing this information can help everyone breathe easier when summer air pollution increases.

Flu Shot is a Gift for Your Lungs

Vaccines are a safe and important part of medical care for everyone. Regular immunizations prevent common bugs like the flu and limit the spread of disease through our communities. For people living with lung disease, a flu shot is especially important. Someone with asthma or COPD:

  • Has a greater risk of catching common infections like the flu
  • May feel added effects from flu symptoms
  • Is more likely to develop pneumonia or other lung problems

This year, getting a flu shot is more important than ever ⁠— especially as COVID-19 continues to spread and people return to more normal activities. The CDC estimates less than half of adults get an annual flu shot. While a flu vaccine cannot prevent you from getting COVID-19, it can help you avoid the flu so your immune system is better able to cope with other illnesses. It also reduces your risk of hospitalization and possibly developing more severe illness, and further adding to the burden on our health care facilities.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports flu shots may lower the risk of getting sick by 40 to 60 percent. It also helps those who cannot receive a shot, including children under 6 months old. Additionally, the CDC typically recommends a one-time pneumonia shot for those who live with lung disease.

August is National Immunization Awareness Month, and a great time to talk with your doctor about ways to stay healthy going into peak flu season. Flu cases are most common in the fall and winter, especially between December and February. Ask if you are up-to-date on past vaccines and to get an annual flu shot. Are you concerned about visiting a facility as COVID-19 continues to spread? Talk to your doctor about ways to stay safe.

If you or loved ones are displaying flu symptoms (fever and respiratory symptoms, such as cough and runny nose, and possibly other symptoms, such as body aches, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea) please stay home. Remember to wash your hands frequently, cover your mouth when you cough, and promptly contact your health care provider.

Additional Resources

If you do not have a regular doctor or healthcare provider, or have other questions, there are a number of local and national resources to help:

Tips on Choosing a Wearable Fitness Tracker

Welcome back, summer! As the weather warms and the sun shines, mix up your exercise routine and head outside. Wearable fitness devices can help you track your exercise. There are many devices available today and it can be hard to choose one. Below are several tips and tricks to help you find one that’s right for you:

• Do you want a tracker or a watch? Trackers count your steps and active minutes, but watches can also monitor your heart rate and send alerts.

• What will the upkeep require? Fancy devices may be nice but are often high maintenance. Look for devices that are easy to use, have a good battery life, and are comfortable to wear.

• Will it meet your needs? Think about your lifestyle and how much you’ll use it. Also think about the interconnectivity aspect; does it need to be compatible with your phone or other electronics, or will this be a stand-alone device?

Regardless of what you choose, fitness trackers and watches are wonderful devices that can get you motivated to exercise. For more information on staying active and healthy visit our Project STRENGTH page, which features pulmonary rehab at home resources.

A Recap of 2021 Lung Health Advocacy Victories

Together we made great progress toward healthy lungs and clean air for all during the spring legislative session. With your support, we advocated new laws and changes to benefit the health of everyone in Illinois. Join us in celebrating these victories,:

  • RHA worked with the Illinois Department of Public Health on an advocacy effort to increase statewide funding for asthma education in Illinois. These efforts resulted in an additional $1 million in funding for school-based asthma education.
  • SB2294 will encourage more Illinoisans to quit smoking by providing expanded Medicaid coverage for FDA approved quit smoking medications, tobacco counseling services, and telephone-based quit smoking services provided through the Illinois Tobacco Quitline.
  • HB3202 will add e-cigarettes and other vapor devices to the state’s health education programs in schools.
  • SB512 will prohibit companies from marketing e-cigarettes to minors and from running misleading e-cigarette advertising.
  • HB1779 will provide easier access to care for people living with cancer by not requiring prior authorization for biomarker testing, which can guide health professionals in developing a treatment plan.
  • HB1745 will reduce out-of-pocket costs for Illinoisans’ prescription drugs, like asthma and COPD medications, by requiring insurance companies to offer plans with predictable co-pays or cap these amounts.
  • HB3498 makes innovative telehealth approaches permanent, so Illinoisans can continue to access critically needed care beyond the pandemic regardless of transportation, scheduling barriers – and with less stigma or risk to safety.
  • SB2563 expands vehicle emissions testing by permitting owners of vehicle service companies to operate an official portable emissions testing company – a win for clean air.
  • SB2133 focuses on health equity by ensuring the state reports data related to race, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disabilities for public health indicators, such as COVID infections.

Want to get involved with our advocacy efforts and help promote laws that will benefit everyone’s health? Learn more and sign-up to receive our emails here.