COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, is a lung disease characterized by chronic obstruction of lung airflow that interferes with normal breathing and includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. The most common cause is smoking – most people with this disease have a combination of bronchitis and emphysema and are smokers or former smokers. Breathing in other kinds of lung irritants – such as pollution, dust or chemicals – over a long period of time can also cause or contribute to COPD. It develops slowly and may be many years before you notice any symptoms. Most of the time, COPD is diagnosed in middle-aged or older people. COPD can not be cured, but it can be managed. If you think you may have COPD, contact to your doctor.
Tuberculosis, more commonly known as TB, is a highly contagious, infectious disease that most often affects the lungs, but can also attack other parts of the body. It is more common in people with immune system problems than in the general population. Symptoms can include a cough lasting more than two weeks, weight loss, fatigue, night sweats and/or fever. Diagnosis may be made by a skin test, which if positive should be followed by a chest X-ray to determine the status – active or dormant – of the infection. Treatment of active tuberculosis is mandatory by law in the US, and should be available at no cost to the patient through the public health system. It involves a course of antibiotics and vitamins that lasts about six months. It is important to finish the entire treatment, both to prevent reoccurrence and to prevent the development of antibiotic-resistant tuberculosis. Most patients with tuberculosis do not need to be quarantined, but it is sometimes necessary. If you think you might have tuberculosis, contact your doctor.
Influenza, more commonly referred to as the flu, is a contagious respiratory disease caused by a virus. Most healthy people will recover from the flu on their own within one to two weeks, but for the very young, the elderly and people with prior medical conditions, it can lead to serious or even fatal complications such as pneumonia. Symptoms of the flu usually come on suddenly. Generally, a person will have a high fever for about three days. Respiratory symptoms, which include sore throat, cough and runny or stuffy nose, usually last an additional three or four days. Headaches, fatigue, weakness, muscle aches and loss of appetite are other common symptoms of the flu. A person may also continue to have a dry, hacking cough for up to 10 days after the other symptoms are gone. For a common case of the flu, the best treatment is to rest and drink plenty of fluids. The best way to prevent the flu is to receive a flu vaccine every year. You can also prevent the spread of the flu by practicing good personal hygiene, including washing your hands often, avoiding touching your eyes, mouth and nose, and refraining from sharing drinks or utensils with others. Also, cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze to prevent spreading the virus to others if you are infected.
Pertussis (Whooping Cough)
Pertussis, more commonly known as whooping cough, is a contagious bacterial infection of the respiratory system. It is characterized by fits of coughing followed by a noisy “whooping” indrawn breath. The illness is most likely to affect young children, but sometimes appears in teenagers and adults, which appears first as coughing spasms followed by a dry cough lasting up to eight weeks. Whooping cough is treated with antibiotic medications and an immunization can provide protection from the infection. If you think you might have whooping cough, contact your doctor.
Pneumonia is a very common illness caused by a serious infection or inflammation of the lungs that can be caused by more than 30 different germs or organisms. The infection prevents air from getting deep into the lungs, making it difficult for oxygen to get to the blood stream. Without the right amount of oxygen in the blood stream, blood cells cannot work properly and as a result, pneumonia can have serious impact on the entire body. Suffering from pneumonia often feels like having the flu with coughing, fever, chest pain and shortness of breath and the symptoms can vary from mild to severe and even cause death. A person might also experience chills, lack of energy, weakness, quick breathing, headache, muscleaches, blueness around the lips and nails, and confusion. Healthy individuals can normally fight off these viruses or bacteria, but if theperson is not healthy or has a weak immune system, pneumonia can develop. Older adults and the elderly are at greater risk of contracting the infection. There are many treatments for pneumonia including antibiotics, cough medicine to help relieve symptoms, pain relievers to east chest pain, bed rest, and lots of fluids. Getting the flu shot can help prevent pneumonia, as well as a pneumonia vaccine that is often recommended for high risk individuals. If you think you have pneumonia, contact your doctor.
Particulate Matter, or PM, is a complex mixture that may contain soot, smoke, metals, nitrates, sulfates, dust, water and tire rubber. It can be directly emitted, as in smoke from a fire, or it can form in the atmosphere from reactions of gases such as nitrogen oxides. The size of particles is directly linked to their potential for causing health problems. Small particles (known as PM2.5 or fine particulate matter) pose the greatest problems because they can get deep into your lungs and some may even get into your bloodstream. Exposure to such particles can affect both your lungs and your heart. Scientific studies have linked long-term particle pollution, especially fine particles, with significant health problems including increased respiratory symptoms, such as irritation of the airways, coughing or difficulty breathing, decreased lung function, aggravated asthma, development of chronic respiratory disease in children, development of chronic bronchitis or chronic obstructive lung disease, irregular heartbeat, nonfatal heart attacks and premature death in people with heart or lung disease, including death from lung cancer. Short-term symptoms can include irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, coughing, chest tightness and shortness of breath. The best way to protect yourself against particulate pollution is to avoid it as much as possible.
Ground-level Ozone is formed when volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and oxides of nitrogen (NOx) react with the sun’s ultraviolet rays. The primary sources of VOCs and NOx are mobile sources, which include cars, trucks, buses, construction equipment and agricultural equipment. Ground-level ozone reaches its highest level during the afternoon and early evening hours, and high levels occur most often during the summer months. This strong irritant can cause constriction of the airways, forcing the respiratory system to have to work harder in order to provide oxygen. It can also cause other health problems such as aggravated respiratory disease, including emphysema, bronchitis and asthma. It can also do damage to deep portions of the lungs, even after symptoms such as coughing or a sore throat disappear. Ozone can cause wheezing, chest pain, dry throat, headache, nausea and can reduce resistance to infection. Some people may also experience increased fatigue and weakened athletic performance. The best way to protect your health is to remain indoors when ozone levels are high. You can also help protect not only your health, but also the health of others by taking alternative transportation on days when ozone levels are high.
Secondhand smoke is a dangerous pollutant that can have adverse health effects on the lungs, even if you are only exposed to it for a short amount of time. It is made up of more than 4,000 chemicals that are released from the end of a burning cigarette and exhaled by a smoker. It contains 40 known cancer-causing agents as well as many other harmful chemicals. People are at risk of breathing in secondhand smoke anywhere there are smokers and the smoke can travel about 20 feet in every directions and can stay around for hours. When the secondhand smoke is inhaled, the chemicals irritate the airways and have an immediate effect on the body, which can lead to a number of serious and deadly health problems. Exposure to secondhand smoke may cause coughing, wheezing, shortness of breathe, asthma attacks, and even heart attacks. It can also hurt the eyes, nose and throat as well as cause headaches and dizziness. Prolonged exposure to secondhand smoke can cause chronic lung problems, lung cancer and heart disease in non-smoking adults as well as lung and ear infections, asthma and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in children. There is no safe level of secondhand smoke. The best way to protect yourself against secondhand smoke is to avoid it as much as possible.
Naturally Occurring Asbestos
Naturally occurring asbestos, also known as NOA, is fibrous minerals found in certain types of rock formations. There is no health threat if NOA remains undisturbed, but natural weathering or human disturbance can break it down into microscopic fibers, which are easily suspended in the air. When inhaled, the fibers can lodge deep in the lungs, and after a long latency period can cause various lung diseases including mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer. Risk levels are proportional with the amount of exposures and the length of time since the first exposure. The best way to protect yourself against naturally occurring asbestos is to avoid it as much as possible.