If you’ve ever had the wind knocked out of you, or fought to catch your breath you may have experienced what those with asthma or emphysema experience every day. Breathing disorders, including lung cancer, are among our nation’s most prevalent diseases. Respiratory Therapists, who work under a physician’s order, provide a wide range of breathing treatments and other services to people with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cystic fibrosis, lung cancer, AIDS, pneumonia and other lung or lung-related conditions.

In recognition of their work, in 1982, president Ronald Regan designed the last week in October as Respiratory Care Week. In 2003, lung health awareness was escalated even further with the establishment of Lung Health Day, celebrated during the Wednesday of Respiratory Care Week.

The Respiratory Therapists at The Outer Banks Hospital offer these tips for building good lung health:

Tip #1: Don't Smoke

It seems obvious, but it’s worth restating: smoking kills, and it usually starts by killing your lungs. So, if you’re a nonsmoker, keep up the good work. If you do smoke, this is the one area of your life where a quitter actually wins. Cold turkey quitting works for some but it’s not always the most effective way to quit. Talk to your doctor about the best smoking-cessation program for you. A doctor can help by referring you to a smoking-cessation program, like The Outer Banks Hospital’s smoking cessation class led by Betse Kelly (call 449-7350). Additionally prescription and non- prescription medications are widely available that can help you kick the habit.

Tip #2: Eat Your Fruits and Vegetables, Drink Water 

Fruits and vegetables are high in antioxidants like Vitamins A, C and E, and health professionals agree that it’s best to get them from your food rather than from supplements. Don’t forget that water is good for your lung health, too. The lung tissue is moist and when we exhale, we lose moisture so we have to drink water to replenish it.

Tip #3: Breathe the Cleanest Air Available

Smoggy, polluted air isn’t really good for anyone, but those with compromised lung function particularly need to avoid alert-worthy conditions and high allergy days by opting for good indoor air. Many people don’t realize this, but about 70 percent of those with asthma suffer from allergy-induced asthma symptoms. Avoid the outdoors during peak traffic hours and exercising or working outside on orange, red, or purple pollution days.

Tip #4: Get Your Flu, Pneumonia Immunization

Influenza outbreaks can wreak havoc on the healthy, and, if you are a respiratory patient, young or old, you are at a higher risk of being hospitalized from flu side effects. The Centers for Disease Control Guidelines encourages parents to make sure that all children 6-23 months of age, all children with medical problems, such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease or children taking immunosuppressive drugs, steroids or aspirin therapy are vaccinated. Adults over 65 and people living in nursing or long-term care facilities as well as any adult who has chronic heart or lung conditions should be protected with an immunization. People with chronic lung conditions are definitely an at-risk group and they should talk with their physician about getting the vaccine. The Outer Banks Hospital will be conducting a free flu immunization clinic on October 29, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. in the hospital’s lobby. The pneumonia vaccine is also important for people 65 and older, those who have problems with their lungs, heart, liver, or kidneys, and anyone with health problems such as diabetes, sickle cell disease, alcoholism or HIV/AIDS. Talk with your primary care physician if you have any questions.

Tip # 5: Move It or Lose It

Exercising regularly by walking, bicycling, gardening, and other sustained activity is very beneficial, in fact it is one of the best things you can do to keep your lungs healthy, other than not smoking.

Following these five healthy tips will help maintain healthy lungs for life! Do it for yourself, do it for your family.