Protecting Your Lungs
Your lungs are different from the other organs in your body because their delicate tissues are directly connected to the outside environment. Anything you breathe in can affect your lungs. Germs, tobacco smoke and other harmful substances can cause damage to your airways and threaten your lungs ability to work properly.
Your body has a natural defense system designed to protect the lungs. This works very well most of the time to keep out dirt and fight off germs. But there are some important things you can do to reduce your risk of lung disease.
Smoking cigarettes is the major cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancer. Cigarette smoke can narrow the air passages and make breathing more difficult. It causes chronic inflammation or swelling in the lung. This can also lead to chronic bronchitis. Over time cigarette smoke destroys lung tissue and may trigger changes that can grow into cancer. If you smoke and are ready to quit, call our Tobacco-Free PATH program.
- Avoid Exposure to Pollutants That Can Damage Your Lungs
Secondhand smoke, outdoor air pollution, chemicals in the home and workplace can all cause or worsen lung disease. Make your home and car smoke-free. Avoid exercising outdoors on bad air days. And talk to your doctor if you are worried that something in your home, school or work may be making you sick.
A cold or other respiratory infection can sometimes become very serious. There are several things you can do to protect yourself:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. Alcohol-based cleaners are a good substitute if you cannot wash.
- Avoid crowds during the cold and flu season.
- Good oral hygiene can protect you from the germs in your mouth leading to infections. Brush your teeth at least twice a day and see your dentist once at least every six months.
- Get vaccinated every year against the flu. Talk to your doctor to find out if the pneumonia vaccine is right for you.
- If you get sick, keep it to yourself! Protect the people around you, including your loved ones, by keeping your distance. Stay home from work or school until you are feeling better.
Regular checkups are an important part of disease prevention, even when you are feeling well. This is especially true for lung disease, which sometimes goes undetected until it is serious. During a checkup, your doctor will listen to your breathing and talk to you about any concerns you may have.