Preventing Your Next Asthma Attack

Asthma is a condition in which the airways in your lungs become narrow, swell, and often produce extra mucus. This can make breathing difficult and trigger coughing, a whistling sound (wheezing), and shortness of breath.

While asthma can not be cured, symptoms can be managed with the help of medications and knowing how to avoid your triggers.

Symptoms Associated with Asthma

Asthma symptoms will vary from person to person. You may notice that your symptoms increase only with certain activities such as exercise, or you may experience symptoms all the time. Be aware of the following asthma signs and symptoms including:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest tightness or pain
  • Wheezing when exhaling, which is a common sign of asthma in children
  • Trouble sleeping is caused by shortness of breath, coughing, or wheezing
  • Coughing or wheezing attacks are worsened by a respiratory virus, such as cold or the flu

Triggers that Lead to Asthma Flare-Ups

While there are various factors into what can trigger an individual’s asthma, some common asthma triggers include:

  • Smoking
  • Food sensitivities, such as dried fruits or foods high in preservatives
  • Exercise
  • Stress
  • Dust mites & insects
  • Allergies & pollen
  • Air quality & pollution
  • Pets
  • Strong odors or fragrant perfumes
  • Weather changes, such as high humidity or dry air

The most common of these triggers affect those suffering from exercise-induced asthma, which may be worse when the air is cold and dry.

For those people working in various manufacturing industries, they may suffer from occupational asthma triggers that are a result of their workplace and include irritants such as gasses, dust, and chemical fumes.

Allergy-induced asthma is also very common and is usually triggered by airborne substances. These irritants include things such as pollen, mold spores, cockroach waste, or pet dander. People with asthma need to keep their homes, especially the area where they sleep, clean and free of triggers that could provoke an asthma attack.

Preventing Your Next Asthma Attack

Preventing Your Next Asthma Attack

Common Treatments

Some people experience mild, infrequent symptoms and may only need quick-relief medications. Others suffer from frequent and persistent symptoms that require long-term controller medications.

Quick-relief or rescue medications will do just that, help you immediately in the event of an asthma attack. These types of medications are used to treat sudden asthma symptoms by relaxing the muscles around the airways of your lungs. Rescue medication sare commonly delivered by an inhaler but can also be in liquid form for use with a nebulizer. It is important to always keep your rescue inhaler with you.

Long-term or controller medications are the second type of medications used to treat asthma. Controller medications are taken daily, regardless of symptoms being present. Their job is to prevent future asthma attacks by reducing the inflammation in the airways over time. They can be given in the form of inhalers, pills, or even injections.

Whether your asthma diagnosis is new, or if you have been coping with it for years, it is important to be mindful of the associated triggers and symptoms that can lead to an asthma attack.

Be sure to contact your healthcare provider if you feel your medications are not controlling your asthma attacks. A severe asthma attack can be life-threatening. Signs of needing emergent asthma treatment include:

  • Rapid worsening of shortness of breath or wheezing
  • No improvement even after using a quick-relief inhaler
  • Shortness of breath when you are doing minimal physical activity

Asthma is an ongoing condition that needs regular monitoring and treatment. Taking control of your treatment can make you feel more in control of your life.


pulmonary rehabilitation

Understanding Pulmonary Rehabilitation

Patients with chronic respiratory conditions such as Asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) or Interstitial Lung Disease (ILD) often have difficulty with their activities of daily living due to shortness of breath. If you have been newly diagnosed with a chronic respiratory condition or suffer from other conditions such as pulmonary hypertension, cystic fibrosis, or have upcoming lung surgery​​​ your health care provider may have suggested Pulmonary Rehabilitation (PR). Like other respiratory conditions, COVID-19 can cause respiratory complications and lasting lung damage. Some people may also develop “long COVID,” which occurs when COVID-19 symptoms linger for weeks or months after acquiring the initial infection. Some people refer to this group as “long haulers.”

What is Pulmonary Rehabilitation (PR)?

Pulmonary Rehabilitation (PR) is a comprehensive rehabilitation program designed specifically for patients with lung disease that has been shown to improve quality of life and relieve shortness of breath. PR is a two-step program that includes education and exercise to help you learn more about your lungs and your disease.

Your rehab team will often include:
  • Doctor
  • Nurse
  • Respiratory therapist
  • Physical therapist
  • Exercise Specialist
  • Dietitian

Overall, you will learn how to manage your breathing problems, increase your energy, and decrease your breathlessness. Typically, a PR program will be offered in a group setting, allowing you the opportunity to meet others suffering from similar conditions. A community environment allows you to speak with others with similar lung problems, get useful tips, and discuss topics that arise when dealing with a chronic condition.

What is the role of PR in the Treatment of COVID-19?

Some people who recover from COVID-19 may need pulmonary rehabilitation to help them resume normal activities after staying in the hospital, or following periods of prolonged isolation. Pulmonary rehabilitation can help those with decreased strength begin to move more, gradually building up their stamina. PR for those recovering from COVID-19 can help:

  • Restore function to the muscles
  • Reduce the likelihood of mental health conditions that may occur as a result of limited mobility
  • Enable people to return to their normal lives

Step ONE: Education

PR programs help patients to improve their exercise capacity which helps them get back to daily life. The education portion of the program will help you gain a better understanding on how to best manage your breathing problems so that your breathing is not in charge of you. You will also learn things such as how to pace your breathing with your activities, take your medications, and what questions to ask your healthcare provider.

Step TWO: Exercise

Step TWO is the exercise component. PR provides education on breathing techniques to help you cope with the symptom of breathlessness The exercise program is led by the PR staff; they will monitor you as you exercise to ensure your safety. The exercises are designed for your specific needs and will start at a level that you can handle. The amount of time you exercise will be increased in time and the level of difficulty will change based on your ability. As your muscles get stronger, you will be able to exercise longer, be less tired, and have less shortness of breath.


What you learn during PR should be used throughout life to avoid hospitalizations, complications, and other issues. Most importantly, it provides a support system by allowing patients to meet other people with the same experience. Pulmonary Rehabilitation forms an integral part of the comprehensive care of patients with respiratory conditions. Always consult with your doctor before starting a new exercise routine. People recovering from COVID-19 should also seek help if their symptoms are severe or suddenly worsen.



National Institues of Health

American Lung Association


COVID-19 and The Vaccine: 6 Things You Should Know

COVID-19 Recap

The virus is known as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The disease it causes is called coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). In March 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic. As of March 2021, there have been over 110,000,000 cases confirmed globally. With various COVID-19 vaccines now readily available throughout most of the United States, new questions fill our daily conversations as we all try to navigate the ongoing pandemic.

1. What symptoms should I look for if I suspect COVID-19?

These symptoms, or combinations of symptoms, generally appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus and may prompt you to suspect you have COVID-19:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fever or chills
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • Congestion or sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

While this list is not all-inclusive, it is important to talk to your healthcare provider if you develop any other symptoms that are new, severe, or concerning to you.

2. Can I get the COVID-19 Vaccine if I am currently sick with COVID-19?


If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or are currently experiencing symptoms, it is not recommended for you to receive the vaccine. It is important to wait to be vaccinated until you have recovered and have met the following criteria:

  • It has been at least 10 days since the symptom started
  • It has been 24 hours since you have been fever-free without the use of fever-reducing medications
  • All other COVID-19 symptoms have improved

This recommendation also applies if you get COVID-19 before getting your second dose of vaccine.

3. Will the COVID-19 vaccine make me sick with COVID-19?


None of the current COVID-19 vaccines or those in development in the United States contain the live virus that causes COVID-19. This means that a COVID-19 vaccine cannot make you sick with COVID-19.

The COVID-19 vaccine teaches our immune systems how to recognize and fight the virus that causes COVID-19. Like the flu vaccine, the vaccination process can cause symptoms, such as fever. These symptoms are normal and are a sign that the body is building protection against the virus that causes COVID-19.

Typically, it takes our bodies a few weeks to build up protection against the virus that causes COVID-19. It is possible you could be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 just before or just after vaccination and still get sick. This is because the vaccine has not had enough time to provide protection.

4. If I have an underlying health condition, should I receive the COVID-19 vaccine?


Vaccinations are an important consideration for adults of any age with certain underlying medical conditions because they are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19. Any mRNA COVID-19 vaccines may be administered to people with underlying medical conditions if they have not previously had any severe or allergic reaction to any of the ingredients in the vaccine. Speak with your healthcare provider if you have further questions about your eligibility and any further questions you may have before receiving the vaccine.

5. After receiving the vaccine, will I test positive for COVID-19 on a viral test?


Neither the recently released COVID-19 vaccines nor those currently in clinical trials in the United States can cause you to test positive on a viral test, which is a test done to assess a current COVID-19 infection.

If your body develops an immune response, which is the goal of vaccines, there is a possibility you may test positive on some antibody tests.  Antibody tests indicate you had a previous infection and that you may have some level of protection against the virus. Experts are currently looking at how COVID-19 vaccination may affect antibody testing results.

6. Once I have received a COVID-19 vaccine, do I need to continue to wear a mask?


The current COVID-19 vaccines do not provide 100% protection. The Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, both a two dose vaccine, offer 94% to 95% protection against symptomatic infections. The Johnson & Johnson’s single dose Covid-19 vaccine is now available and offers  85% efficacy against severe forms of Covid-19 and 100 percent efficacy against hospitalization and death.

Currently, there is no way of knowing who will not respond to the vaccine and whether they will still be at risk for contracting COVID-19. To reach herd immunity, 50% to 80% of the population will need to be vaccinated.

While the COVID-19 vaccines that are currently available are considered highly effective and a step in the right direction, it will be important to continue masking and following social distancing guidelines. By doing so, you can help reduce the spread of the virus and its impact on our healthcare system.


As the COVID-19 vaccines bring the pandemic under control, there is hope for a return to our daily lives, it may just look like a new normal. If you have questions regarding any of the COVID-19 vaccines currently available, make time to visit with your healthcare provider so that you can ask questions and make an informed decision. Social distance and wear a mask when unable to maintain social distancing in public places or if you are around people who do not live in the same household, and most importantly, Stay Safe.


Air Pollution and Your Respiratory Health

Air pollution is not only a threat to the environment, but also to our respiratory health. According to the Respiratory Health Association, more than 137 million Americans live in communities that have unhealthy levels of air pollution. Air pollution is a health risk to everyone, but especially those who live with lung disease.

What is Air Pollution?

Most air pollution emanates from particulate matter, or soot, as well as ground-level ozone, or ozone smog. Particulate matter is made up of chemicals that pollute the air we breathe and is responsible for most health complications from air pollution in the United States. According to the National Library of Medicine, outdoor air pollution, mostly particulate matter, is responsible for about 3.3 million premature deaths in the world yearly.  Ground-level ozone is created when pollutants, specifically nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds, chemically react with sunlight or heat. The higher the temperature, the faster this process happens, which results in an increased and unhealthy ground layer ozone level. Air pollution consists of harmful chemicals and compounds that can occur naturally, or from human activity. Common causes of air pollution include:

  • Vehicle emissions
  • Oil and gas extraction
  • Industrial processes, especially when coal-fueled
  • Chemical production fumes
  • Construction
  • Fireplaces, industrial/trash burning and wildfire smoke

How Does Air Pollution Affect Your Lungs?

Over time, inhaling particulate matter and ground-level ozone into your lungs can cause irritation and you may start to experience symptoms such as:

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath

This can lead to even more severe health risks over time such as lung cancer, stroke, heart attack, and even premature death. Certain demographics are more at risk of lung damage from air pollution. These groups include babies and young children, the elderly, people who work or spend a large amount of time outdoors, as well as those who already suffer from heart or lung conditions.

Protecting Yourself and Your Lungs from Air Pollution

If your health, age or occupation places you at a higher risk for air pollution exposure, always check the Air Quality Index (AQI) before going outside. AQI is associated with a numerical value along with a color, making it easier to determine if the air quality is safe or not. The AQI scale ranges from 0-500, with 0-50 being the safest and 301-500 being the most hazardous. Exposure to the outdoors poses the highest risk, especially for sensitive groups, when the AQI is over 100. On days when the AQI levels are high, avoid going outside unless it is necessary.

Reducing Air Pollution

Even though it may seem like one person cannot make a difference, by making just a few changes you can help reduce how much ozone is formed on hot days. Much of the ozone smog that is present in cities comes from vehicles. When possible, take public transportation or carpool to limit driving your personal vehicle. Make sure to turn your car off when it is not in motion, and do not let the engine idle. You may also consider switching to an electric vehicle. Electric vehicles are better for air quality and likely have less impact on climate change. It is crucial that everyone makes an effort to reduce air pollution in our cities so we can lower the number of people that are negatively impacted by it.


While there will always be challenges to making the air we breathe cleaner, it is important to do your part to reduce it. Since particulate matter and ground-level ozone are harsh on our respiratory system, taking precautions such as checking the AQI and staying indoors when it is high will help you protect your lungs.


wise healthcare

How to Be a Wise Healthcare Consumer

Americans spend more time researching purchases such as cars and appliances than they do choosing health plans, according to the American Institute for Preventive Medicine. Being a wise healthcare consumer means making the right choices that are best for you and your family when it comes to your health.

At times, we take our health, especially lung health for granted. Our lungs work hard every day to make sure they keep germs, bacteria and serious health conditions at bay. They provide oxygen-rich blood to our body to ensure it functions properly. Therefore, it is important that we prioritize our lung health, starting by prioritizing the healthcare we receive as consumers.

As an example, if you or a loved one develops a respiratory condition, you will want to thoroughly research respiratory therapy, which involves caring for patients with chronic breathing problems and lung issues. Factors that cause respiratory problems such as lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and emphysema are often treated with respiratory therapy, and you will want to find a respiratory therapist that is right for you.

We have provided 6 tips to help you navigate and stay on the right track by taking charge of your healthcare.

Choosing a Healthcare Provider for Your Health Needs

Finding a provider that can help you with your specific healthcare needs can be overwhelming. When choosing a provider, it is important to understand the different specialties of healthcare providers. Common healthcare providers include:

  • Pulmonologist: A pulmonologist is a doctor who diagnoses and treats diseases of the respiratory system which include the lungs and other organs that help you breathe.
  • Internal Medicine: Internal medicine physicians typically treat adults and specialize in the prevention, diagnosis and management of disease and chronic conditions.
  • Family Practice: Family practice physicians treat patients of all ages, from newborns to the elderly. They are generalists who can treat a wide variety of conditions and can often save you a trip to a specialist’s office.
  • General Practice: General Practice physicians are like family practice physicians and can treat patients of any gender or age. This category is one area where you might also find osteopaths, which are physicians that practice a type of alternative medicine with a special focus on the musculoskeletal system and are distinguished by the “D.O.” after their name instead of “M.D.” General Practice physicians can usually refer you to a specialist if needed.

Know Your Healthcare Coverage

Be sure you are familiar with your health insurance plan. It is important that your plan covers everything you would like it to, including any specific health difficulties you may have. Your insurance should be tailored to your specific needs and health conditions. You may need to switch healthcare plans if you need additional coverage or if you need to reduce the coverage you currently have if you buy your own insurance. Pay special attention to the cost of your current insurance and do not be afraid to shop around to compare costs of various insurance companies. You do not want to pay more than you need to!

Communication is Key

Before a trip to the doctor, always research and write down any questions you may have for them so that you will be ready for your appointment upon arrival. Always be sure to communicate with your doctor honestly and clearly since they need your compliance to best treat you. Always follow the doctor’s instructions and be sure to ask questions if you are confused or if there is something you do not understand.

Get Regular Check-Ups

Regular check-ups are essential to catching medical problems sooner than later. This is especially true for lung disease, which sometimes goes undetected until it is serious. The sooner a condition is diagnosed, the less complicated it usually is to treat, which will drive the costs down for you. If you are over 50, you should be getting a check-up at least once a year. For those with underlying health conditions, you may need more regular check-ups. Your doctor will know what is best for you, so be sure to ask them how often you should visit.

Get Unusual Symptoms Treated

If you think something is wrong, seeking medical attention is the best way to get an accurate diagnosis and treatment as soon as possible. Waiting out your symptoms out at home can increase your chances of complications, which can make for a more costly visit to the doctor as well as pose risks to your health. The sooner you get help the better to confirm that nothing serious is going on.

Use Generic Medication

When prescribed medication, ask if there is a generic alternative you can try instead. Generic medications are usually less expensive than name brands, and most of the time they work just as well as branded ones. Using generic medications will save you money while still getting you the treatment that you need.


Following these tips can ensure that you get the most out of your healthcare plan. By doing these 6 things, you are on your way to becoming a wise healthcare consumer!





Lungs and the Respiratory System

Lungs are very important since every cell in our body needs oxygen to function. Oxygen is inhaled into your lungs and then moves throughout your body via the bloodstream. Carbon dioxide is then expelled from your body when you breathe out.

The respiratory system also performs other vital roles in your body, such as moisturizing the air you breathe to be the right temperature and humidity level. It also acts as a filter to protect you from harmful substances through sneezing, coughing and swallowing. Let us break down what the respiratory system is and what it does.

Diagram of the Respiratory System

The nose is the main entryway for air into the body. Your nose hairs act as a filter to stop particles that should not enter your body. The mouth is an alternate entryway, especially when the nose is blocked or you are breathing heavily, like during a workout.

The sinuses, or hollow spaces located around the eyes and nose, fill with air and are responsible for regulating the temperature of the air you inhale, as well as humidity.

Inhaled air collects in your throat, which then passes through your windpipe, or trachea. The windpipe splits into 2 separate airways called bronchial tubes— one located in each lung. These 2 bronchial tubes split again into the 5 different lobes in your lungs. Openings in bronchial tubes are supported by cartilage, which is a thick tissue. The end of the tubes split further into bronchioles.

Lining the bronchial tubes are cilia, which are tiny hairs that move mucus out to your throat.

At the end of the bronchioles, there are air sacs, or alveoli. Gas exchange occurs in these tiny air sacs, and according to National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, your lungs have around 150 million of them. The air sacs are elastic, so they can expand and contract, allowing them to take in oxygen and expel carbon dioxide.

Capillaries are blood vessels located in the walls of the air sacs. Blood with carbon dioxide is pumped from the right ventricle through the pulmonary artery to the air sacs where the carbon dioxide is released into the lungs. Simultaneously, oxygen from the air within the air sacs diffuses into capillaries that are connected to the pulmonary vein which brings oxygenated blood to the left atrium of the heart to later be pumped throughout the body.

The right lung has 3 different sections called lobes, and the left lung has 2. The lobes contain sponge-like tissue, and it travels through the bronchial tubes in and out of the lobes. The pleura is a pair of membranes around each lobe and acts as a lining between your chest wall and lungs.

The diaphragm is a large muscle that separates your abdominal cavity and your chest cavity. It plays a major role in the inflation of the lungs.

Ribs are the bones protecting everything in your chest cavity. They also help the lungs with expansion and contraction.


Together, your respiratory system is responsible for your breathing without you even realizing it. Each of these smaller parts work together to make up something that is quite complex and fascinating. Staying in good health and taking care of your lungs will ensure your respiratory system functions as it should.




The Impact of Vaping

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cigarette smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States. Smoking causes more than 480,000 deaths each year in the United States which is approximately one in five deaths. Read on to learn more about e-cigarettes and how their use continues to rapidly escalate in the USA, particularly among youth.

What is Vaping?

Vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling the aerosol that is produced by an electronic vapor device when it heats up its liquid ingredients. These products are sometimes referred to as electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, and “vapes.” The contents of most vaping liquids (e-liquids) include nicotine, flavoring chemicals, and other chemicals. Some vaping products are modified to contain marijuana or THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

What is in an E-cigarette?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not currently have any regulations or standards as to what goes into e-cigarettes. While there is no set ingredients list, what we do know is that they contain several toxins and chemicals like standard cigarettes.

Common e-cigarettes contain:

  • Nicotine- found in cigarettes and affects adolescent brain development
  • Propylene glycol- used in antifreeze
  • Acrolein- used to kill weeds
  • Heavy metals- such as nickel, tin, and lead
  • Benzene- found in car exhaust
  • Various other carcinogen chemicals linked to cancer

What is EVALI?

The effects of cigarette smoke have always been a longstanding health concern, and new conditions have arisen due to the increased amount of people turning to e-cigarettes and vaping. The CDC, along with state and local health departments, is seeing an outbreak of e-cigarette or vaping, product use-associated lung injury (EVALI).

Those reported with EVALI can present with symptoms of dyspnea, which is an uncomfortable sensation or awareness of breathing or needing to breathe, cough, and have an abnormally low concentration of oxygen in the blood.

Other symptoms of EVALI can include:

  • Chest pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Weight loss

Impact on the Lungs

Smoking of any kind can lead to lung disease due to the damage caused by inhaling irritants contained in cigarettes and e-cigarettes. The small air sacs, called alveoli, in your lungs fill with smoke and debris. Over time, the inhaled smoke destroys your lung tissue and makes it difficult to transport oxygen to your blood vessels, leaving you short of breath.

Inhaled irritants can cause an increase in the amount and thickness of mucus you produce. When you smoke, the cells that produce mucus grow rapidly and your lungs are not able to keep up with the production. The inability to clear the mucus in your airways can lead to infections.

Additionally, nicotine and other chemicals in e-cigarettes are being tied to increasing heart rate and blood pressure and the risk of heart attack and stroke, as well as inflammation, asthma, and wheezing.

There are still many unknowns regarding the use of e-cigarettes, the chemicals they include, and the physical effects that can result from long term use. There is, however, emerging clinical information that suggests a strong link to chronic lung conditions and asthma as well as cardiovascular disease.

A New Generation of Smokers: The Statistics

Among youth, e-cigarettes have become more popular than traditional tobacco products. According to a September 2020 CDC morbidity and mortality report, 19.6% of high school students (3.02 million) and 4.7% of middle school students (550,000) reported current e-cigarette use.

Among current e-cigarette users, 38.9% of high school students and 20.0% of middle school students reported using e-cigarettes on 20 or more of the past 30 days. Daily use of e-cigarettes was reported by 22.5% of high school users and 9.4% of middle school users.

START with a Plan to Quit

As for any current tobacco user, smoking cessation is key to stopping the progressive damage caused using any type of tobacco, e-cigarette, or vaping product. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has developed an acronym to help you kickstart your plans to quit.

S – Set a quit date

T – Tell Family & Friends you plan to quit

A – Anticipate and plan for challenges

R – Remove cigarettes & all tobacco products from your home, work, and car

T – Talk with your healthcare provider


It is very difficult to quit vaping, and youth are especially vulnerable to the addictive pull of nicotine. While some may be able to quit unaided, many young people who try to quit will experience withdrawal symptoms, including anxiety, irritability, difficulty concentrating and loss of appetite. The most effective approach to helping a young person quit is through counseling, family, and peer support. It is also important to address potential underlying mental or emotional problems that might contribute to the desire to vape or use other addictive substances.

Fact Check Resources:

Understanding A COPD Diagnosis: Key Facts

If you or someone you know has recently been diagnosed with COPD, you may be wondering what exactly that means. COPD stands for Chronic Obstructive Respiratory Disease. COPD is composed of different respiratory diseases that cause troubled breathing.

The term COPD can be used to describe a singular respiratory disorder, or more than one. COPD encompasses chronic bronchitis, emphysema, asthma, and some forms of bronchiectasis, as well as any combination of the four. According to the American Lung Association, over 16 million Americans are diagnosed with COPD as of October 2020, but millions more suffer from it without being diagnosed.

The group of diseases in which COPD refers to cause airflow obstruction and trouble with breathing. COPD is chronic, meaning it is long-lasting and constantly present. Each individual case of COPD is different, and some cases are more severe than others. The most common cases of COPD include symptoms of both chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

COPD Explained

What is Happening in Your Body?

Your particular case of COPD will determine what is happening within your body. Cases that include chronic bronchitis will cause swelling and increased mucus production in the lung airways, or bronchial tubes. This causes breathing to become more difficult since your airways are inflamed and narrowed with mucus blocking them. Cases including emphysema cause destruction of the air sacs, or alveoli. The air sacs are responsible for oxygen exchange within the lungs, and they lose their elasticity by becoming destroyed. This causes breathing difficulty since the loss of elasticity leads to air being trapped inside the air sacs, making it harder to get oxygen in and carbon dioxide out.

Symptoms of COPD

Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Increased shortness of breath
  • Frequent coughing (with or without mucus)
  • Wheezing
  • Tightness in the chest

Remember, not all cases of COPD will have the same symptoms. Other symptoms include frequent respiratory infections, lack of energy and unintended weight loss.

What Causes COPD?

COPD is mainly caused by inhaling lung irritants, and smoking is the #1 cause. People, however, do not realize that other potential lung irritants that can also cause COPD include exposure to air pollution, fumes, chemicals, secondhand smoke and dust particles. Oftentimes, inhaling these irritants can be work-related. Working in construction, mining or welding are examples of occupations that increase the risk of obtaining COPD due to increased exposure to lung irritants. A rare genetic factor called alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency is also known to cause COPD and is passed from parents to their children.

Comorbid conditions seem to be more common in people with COPD than in people with other medical problems. These conditions may include:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Osteoporosis
  • Depression
  • Arthritis
  • Sleep Apnea
  • Cancer
  • Other medical problems

One reason for these additional problems may relate to the lung inflammation that occurs in people with COPD.

What is a Flare-Up?

A COPD flare-up, or exacerbation, is when your symptoms are considerably worse than usual. Some can be treated at home, but more severe flare-ups can require a visit to the hospital. Flare-ups are triggered by further lung inflammation. This can be from exposure to smoke, pollution or allergens as well as contracting the flu or pneumonia. Symptoms to look out for include:

  • Shortness of breath without physical activity
  • Increased mucus
  • Excessive coughing or wheezing
  • Lower blood  oxygen saturation level than normal

Those symptoms can usually be treated at home with antibiotics or inhalers, but the following list of symptoms require professional help.

  • Increased heart rate
  • Being unable to catch your breath
  • Lips or fingernails turn blue or gray
  • Treatments are not working

Does COPD Have a Cure?

COPD is a progressive disease, which means that it gets worse over time. Unfortunately, there is no cure, but luckily many treatment options are available to improve the quality of life. Bronchodilator and steroid medications are available through inhalers to relax the lungs, as well as oral anti-inflammatory medications. Oxygen therapy is also a popular treatment option to help patients achieve healthy blood oxygen levels, which is difficult to maintain when you have COPD. Oxygen therapy allows you to still be active and live a normal life while getting the oxygen into your body that you need, especially with the availability of portable oxygen concentrators. Pulmonary rehabilitation is another option for those with COPD. It helps patients adjust to and get educated about their conditions. Pulmonary rehabilitation programs often provide support and exercise training as well as breathing techniques that are personalized based on specific patient needs.

Living with COPD

Activities of daily living, such as completing chores or bathing, can be harder to accomplish due to shortness of breath. You may have to take constant breaks to catch your breath. Activities will take your energy to perform, so you will get physically exhausted more easily. Living with COPD means slowing down in order to control your breathing and to prevent tiring yourself too quickly. Living with COPD has its challenges, but modifying some activities of daily living can improve your quality of life and help you better manage your disease.


Although COPD is a life-long condition, you can still live a fulfilling life with the help of treatment options, although you may have to slow your pace. COPD takes a toll on your body, so taking care of yourself, monitoring your symptoms and following your doctor’s orders are top priorities.


5 Tips to Reach Your Health Goals in the New Year

It is that time of the year where most people have intentions to set a couple of New Year’s Resolutions, and healthy eating and exercise typically make this list. As we head into the New Year, let us try setting goals that are realistic and achievable!

Achieve Your New Year’s Goals This Year!

It is important to set short-term and long-term goals for ourselves in order to stay on track and create the lifestyle changes we desire in each part of our lives. We hope this article will share some helpful tips on how to make more realistic goals for a healthier lifestyle change in the new year, especially with those facing health challenges.

When your New Year’s goal is big picture, it may be hard to determine the steps that need to be taken to accomplish it. Completing specific, smaller goals that lead to your overall goal is a smart approach to sticking with your resolutions. For example, rather than making “getting in shape” your goal, make it something more specific and tangible, such as walking for 20 minutes three times a week. Taking smaller steps like this to help you stay on track of your overall objective, with mini victories at each smaller action that is taken.

Make one change at a time.

Making changes to your routine that you want to avoid can be done simply by focusing on one particular action at a time. If you are trying to get out of a bad habit, this step will be helpful for you. Think about what you would like to change. If the change is eating healthier, get in the habit of replacing your late-night candy bar with a low glycemic fruit, such as a small portion of strawberries or blueberries. If you are trying to incorporate exercise, replace the time you would spend watching TV on the couch with some sort of movement, even if this means taking steps around the house or stretching exercises while you watch your favorite show. Everyone has a daily routine and changing it one step at a time will ease you into healthier habits that will stick.

Share your resolutions with others.

Sharing your goals for the year with friends or family will keep you on the right path since they will be able to hold you accountable. Having a support system can help remind you of why you are pushing yourself to make a change in the upcoming year. Support systems, online community forums, or groups can also help motivate you to reach your goals. For example, if you want to quit smoking, finding a support group with others experiencing the same feelings can be a helpful reminder that you are not alone. Receiving support will encourage you to stick with your short-term and long-term goals.

Remember that change is gradual.

Set yourself up for success knowing this is a marathon, not a sprint, and achieving your health goals in just a few days is unrealistic. Good and bad habits take time to develop, and changing a habit or making a new one is a process that is going to take time – be patient with yourself. Focus on the big picture, and remember the small changes you make on a daily basis are adding up to make the difference long term. If you happen to get off track, pick yourself right back up and start again.  Do not be discouraged if you are not seeing your goals come to fruition as quickly as you would like!

Reward yourself.

Each step taken in the direction of your goal is something worth celebrating. If cooking at home or choosing healthier options at restaurants is the objective, and you stuck with your healthy eating habit for 2 weeks straight, then by all means reward yourself! Not only will celebrating the little accomplishments help your goal seem more manageable, but it will help you feel motivated in moving towards your overall lifestyle change. Having little celebratory rewards will give you something to look forward to, and the biggest reward is reaching the milestones that lead to obtaining the overall objective you set for yourself.

Using these tips will help you stick with your short-term and long-term goals, and ultimately create a healthier lifestyle. We suggest keeping a journal to write in and keep track of reaching milestones, the pitfalls that will help you avoid them the next time, and how you celebrated the wins. The team at Belluscura wishes you the best of luck in achieving your health goals in 2021!

What to Know About Low Blood Oxygen Levels

Oxygen is a gas that is vital to human life. It is one of the gases that is found in the air we breathe. If you have a chronic lung disease limiting the effectiveness of your lungs, you may need supplemental oxygen for your organs to function normally.

When your oxygen level is low, the organs in your body are receiving less oxygen which can negatively impact their bodily function.

Low levels of oxygen in the blood are referred to as hypoxemia. Hypoxemia is a  below-normal level of oxygen in your blood, specifically in the arteries.

How is Hypoxemia Measured?

Hypoxemia is determined by measuring the oxygen level in a blood sample taken from an artery, called an arterial blood gas. It can also be estimated by measuring the oxygen saturation of your blood using a pulse oximeter. A pulse oximeter is a small device that can fit on your finger and measure your blood oxygen level.

What is the Normal Level?

There is no singular ‘normal’ oxygen level, as people have different needs based on their health conditions. If a person has no previous medical issues, a normal pulse oximeter reading usually ranges from 95 to 100 percent.

If you suffer from a respiratory or cardiac condition, your healthcare provider may recommend a lower acceptable range anywhere from 88 to 92 percent. Always clarify with your healthcare provider what blood oxygen level range they want you to stay within.

What Causes Hypoxemia?

Several factors can contribute to the low levels of oxygen in a person’s blood. Ideally, there should be enough oxygen in the air we breathe. Our lungs must be able to inhale oxygen-rich air and our bloodstream needs to be able to properly circulate our blood to our lungs so that it can take in oxygen and deliver it to our vital organs.

Common causes of hypoxemia include:

  • Anemia- a condition where your body lacks enough red blood cells to carry oxygen to your body’s tissues
  • Asthma- due to the narrowing and swelling of the airways in your lungs
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)- due to inflammation in the lungs
  • Pneumonia- due to the infection and the lungs filling with fluid
  • Pulmonary Fibrosis- due to the increased scarring of the lungs
  • Sleep apnea- when a person has a momentary pause in breathing, low oxygen levels can occur

There can be several other causes of hypoxemia. If you have a pulse oximeter and monitor your levels regularly, be sure to talk to your healthcare provider if you are experiencing low blood oxygen levels.

Symptoms of Hypoxemia

Just as the causes of hypoxemia vary, so do the symptoms. Depending on the severity of your condition, you may experience the following symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath- the hallmark symptom
  • Coughing
  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Fast heart rate
  • Wheezing


Always contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible if you experience shortness of breath with slight exertion or even at rest. If your shortness of breath comes on suddenly and you are feeling your heart is beating fast and you cannot get enough air in, seek emergency care as this could be a life-threatening situation.

To maintain healthy oxygen levels, it is important to stop smoking if you are a current smoker, avoid secondhand smoke, and get regular exercise to strengthen your lungs.