JTV Partners with RHA for Women’s Lung Health

Living with lung disease not only affects your breathing, but your peace of mind as well. Lung disease is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States.

Women, in particular, are at a greater risk of developing lung disease than men. Nearly 21 million U.S. women live with lung diseases like asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer, and pulmonary fibrosis. Millions more have early symptoms.

The numbers are breathtaking:

  • More than 13 million women in the U.S. have asthma – accounting for 65 percent of all adults with asthma
  • An average of 193 women die each day of lung cancer, one every 7 minutes.
  • An estimated 8.5 million U.S. women are living with COPD. Today, more women die of COPD each year than men.

Despite the data, women’s lung disease research is drastically underfunded compared to other causes of death. This disparity in funding leads to fewer treatment options and poorer health outcomes. At a time when lung health couldn’t be more important, we want to generate awareness about women’s lung disease and raise funds for ongoing research efforts.

“Women’s lung health is the public health crisis no one is talking about. One out of every six women in the United States is living with chronic lung disease such as asthma, COPD, or lung cancer, yet federal research funding for these diseases is severely lacking,” says Joel Africk, President and CEO at Respiratory Health Association (RHA).

Table that shows disease funding and mortality rates

Despite lung disease as a top cause of death, lung disease research is drastically underfunded.

To address this disparity, RHA launched its Catch Your Breath® Women and Lung Health Initiative.

Lynn Kotsiantos originally inspired the Catch Your Breath campaign. Lynn was a non-smoking, healthy mother of three shocked to learn that she had lung cancer. After a nine-month struggle, she passed away in April 2003 at the age of 42.

In her honor, Catch Your Breath® continues as a women’s lung health awareness campaign. Catch Your Breath® raises awareness and funding for lung health research and programs. To improve treatments, Catch Your Breath® advocates for increased funding for research to better understand lung disease. Additionally, the initiative educates the public and medical professionals about the disproportionate effects of lung disease on women.

Respiratory Health Association's Catch Your Breath Women and Lung Health Initiative logo

One component of the Catch Your Breath® campaign is a partnership with Jewelry Television (JTV) to support women’s lung health.

JTV butterfly keychain to support women's lung health

Throughout the month of May, JTV is offering a variety of promotions to its customers to support RHA and the Catch Your Breath® initiative, including a butterfly keychain. For each piece sold, JTV will donate 50% of the sales price to RHA.

To locate JTV on your local cable provider, click here for the channel finder. JTV also livestreams daily broadcasts on its website.

“Our partnership with JTV is an important part of our women’s lung health campaign because we can reach such a large audience – it is critical we get people talking about this issue and work to turn the tide in the fight against lung disease,” explains Africk.

Visit womenslunghealth.org to help every woman breathe easier.

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Lung Disease and Telemedicine

woman on computer showing current medicinesTelemedicine is a useful service that connects people with physicians when in-person visits may not be possible. It digitally delivers services to patients using devices like computers and smartphones. It allows patients to see and talk to their providers without being in the office. Common uses of telemedicine include follow up visits, chronic disease management, consultations, and medication management. If you live with lung disease, telemedicine can be an important part of staying healthy.

Telemedicine has grown significantly in recent years. It has become even more important during the COVID-19 pandemic. It allows patients to avoid crowded waiting rooms and practice social distancing when infection rates may be surging. People are also able to avoid the need to drive, take the bus, or take other forms of transportation.

Is telemedicine effective?

Telemedicine is both beneficial and effective for specific services. These include behavioral health therapy, counseling patients with chronic conditions, and home monitoring for patients with chronic conditions[i]. Recent studies found it also improves access to care, reduces wait times, and provides faster treatment[ii]. While telemedicine is useful, there are still appointments that need to take place at a doctor’s office or hospital. These visits include blood work, imaging tests, and physical exams. Talk to your doctor to learn more.

How can I prepare for an appointment?

Most visits require some type of video ability. You can use any device that has audio-video capabilities and an internet connection. Devices include smartphones, computers, or tablets. After the appointment is scheduled, you’ll receive directions to log on for your visit. The physician will start the visit with a few questions to confirm your identity and will then move on to the main reason for the visit.

To prepare for your visit, follow these tips:

  1. Write down your questions and concerns beforehand.
  2. If you have an informal family caregiver, ask them to join you.
  3. Test drive your equipment (computer, tablet, phone) before the appointment.
  4. Find a quiet spot with plenty of light to take the appointment.
  5. Be prepared to tell your provider about your family and medical history.
  6. Have as many of your vital numbers on hand as possible (weight, temperature, blood pressure, etc.)
  7. Try to be specific when describing symptoms or signs.
  8. Have pen and paper handy to write down any important notes.
  9. Have all your medications or a current list within reach during the appointment.

Does insurance cover these services?

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) expanded telemedicine coverage for people during the COVID-19 public health emergency. These temporary expanded services allowed people to access health care services from home, across state lines, and see new doctors if needed. In November 2021, CMS approved continued coverage for some of these services through December 2023[iii]. You can read the full list online.

Click here to download our fact sheet with references.

COVID-19 Booster: A Vaccine Update

In November 2021, the FDA and CDC approved COVID-19 booster vaccines for all adults 18 and older. Any adult who previously received a full dose of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines is now eligible for the booster. Johnson & Johnson booster vaccines have also been approved.

woman reads from tablet on couch

The booster vaccine is an important piece in continuing immunity to COVID-19. Over time, the body’s immune response to the first series of vaccines decreases resulting in less protection. An additional dose, or a booster, can help extend a person’s immunity against the virus. It does this by creating a stronger and faster immune response and provides additional coverage against new variants. As immunity fades, the risk for contracting COVID-19 increases. For adults over 65 and people with compromised immune systems, the additional vaccine may be needed to ready the immune system. The booster vaccine formulation is the same as the original COVID-19 vaccines, with the exception of the Moderna booster, which is half the dose of the original vaccines.

People who received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine should get their booster at least five (Pfizer) or six (Moderna) months after completing the second shot in the initial series. If adults received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, they should get their booster at least two months after their initial vaccination. The FDA has also authorized people to “mix and match” their booster vaccine . For example, someone who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine may get a Pfizer or Moderna booster. This gives people more of a choice when scheduling their boosters and allows pharmacies and doctors’ offices to reach more people. Be sure to talk to your doctor about what is best for you.

Will I Experience Side Effects?

There may be a few side effects after receiving the booster shot. Symptoms are similar to previous vaccines – swelling or redness at the injection site, fever, headaches, muscle pain, or fatigue. These side effects, and other symptoms that may occur, are the body’s natural response to the vaccine. They are a good sign that the immune system is gearing up to fight off the virus.

How Will the Booster Help Me?

Preliminary data from Pfizer suggest that three doses (the original two vaccines plus the booster) increase the level of protection against variant infections. Even though breakthrough cases may still occur, the outcomes to date have been far less severe. This includes fewer hospitalizations and deaths among people who have received a booster.

If you need help scheduling your booster vaccine, you can contact the same place that set up your original vaccines. You can also call your doctor, pharmacy, health department, or even the local grocery store to see if they have available appointments. Remember to take your CDC-issued vaccine card to document your booster.

To further reduce risk of COVID-19, continue to wear your mask in indoor public spaces and around large crowds. You should also continue to wash your hands regularly. Finally, encourage family and friends to receive their vaccines as they are able.

Please click here for the full article with references.

Protecting Lung Health Is Our Priority

protecting lung health in IllinoisAs we get into the swing of a new year, a new session just started in Springfield. We are working with partner organizations and lawmakers on policy priorities that support healthy lungs and clean air for all.

Climate & Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA)
Passed in 2021, CEJA sets Illinois on the path to 100% clean energy by 2050. In addition, it commits millions of dollars to quickly expand transportation electrification in Illinois. This year, we will work to make sure the new law is carried out in ways that benefit air quality and lung health in all communities across the state.

Adding E-cigarettes to the Indoor Smoke-free Law
The electronic cigarette industry has continued to dodge legislation that would add their products to the current state law. Currently, this law prevents smoking in public places and places of employment. RHA is working to add e-cigarettes to the law’s language and protect the lung health of Illinois residents along the way.

Working on New Environmental Justice Plans
RHA is working with other organizations to support the Environmental Justice Act. This new bill will protect lung health in communities receiving unfair treatment under current laws.

Additional Lung Cancer Screening Funding
Lung cancer screening saves lives. In order to protect more people, we will work to secure an additional $1 million in funding from the upcoming state budget for these important health tests.

If you want to stay updated on our work during the legislative session, sign up for our email updates. In addition, you can learn more about ways to be an advocate for healthy lungs and clean air here.

Finally, you can read more about some of our past advocacy successes here.

Make an Impact in 2022 – Join Respiratory Health Association’s Associates Board

New year, new ways to make a difference. This year, throw away the New Year’s resolutions and step up to make an impact in your Chicago community. Join Respiratory Health Association’s (RHA) Associates Board to have a direct impact on the lives of people living with lung disease. With your help, we will create a future where everyone can breathe clean air.

RHA’s Associates Board is a group of young professionals, 25-40, dedicated to volunteering their time, talents, and energy to building a future with healthy lungs and clean air for all. Members serve as advocates for RHA and our work addressing asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer, tobacco control, and air quality.

Take it from some of our current Associate Board members, who shared what working with RHA means to them.

“RHA is a cause near and dear to my heart (and lungs). I had several asthma attacks growing up and know many who suffer or are suffering from lung cancer.”
– Colin McElligott

“I joined RHA’s Associates Board because I am passionate about climate change, clean air, and giving the next generation more equitable opportunities. Growing up in poor neighborhoods in NJ, I thought it was normal for most kids to have asthma. The work RHA does to change policies and educate citizens will help folks like me and communities like the one I’m from.”
– Dwayne Pickett

To learn more about RHA’s Associates Board check out and share our informational flyer here.

If you are looking to make an impact in your community and feel passionate about lung health, join us for an informational happy hour on Tuesday, February 8 from 7-8 PM.

To keep our happy hour safe, we are asking everyone to be able to show proof of vaccination and register in advance by completing this form.

Christmas Trees and Asthma Flare-ups

Christmas tree and asthma

Do your allergies get worse around the holidays? Your Christmas tree may be to blame. Both real and artificial Christmas trees can cause allergy and asthma flare-ups. Real trees, regardless of type, can collect allergens and spores prior to being cut down. When they are cut down, they’re sprayed down with water, bundled, and packed for delivery to a tree seller. Unfortunately, this process allows mold to grow along the way.

Artificial trees may trigger asthma and allergy episodes as well. When unpacked, new trees can release chemicals into the air. Older trees may gather dust from being in storage all year. Packing and storing artificial Christmas trees in airtight containers can help reduce the amount of dust that collects.

There are a few steps you can take to minimize the risk of an asthma flare-up related to your Christmas tree:

1. Real or artificial, air out your tree before you set it up inside.

2. Try to wait until December to put up your tree. Mold starts to grow rapidly after a week inside the home.

3. Spraying your real tree with a half water, half vinegar solution can help cut down mold.

4. Wipe down your artificial tree (and other decorations) with a damp cloth to remove dust and allergens.

5. You can wear a face mask when setting up and taking down your tree and decorations can reduce the risk of a flare-up.

6. After disposing or packing your tree up, make sure to thoroughly vacuum and dust the area.

7. Make sure you have your asthma medications handy just in case you do have an asthma flare-up.

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.