For many San Diegans who suffer from a chronic cough and other breathing problems, spring’s allergy season can severely aggravate thier condition and lead to serious complications, hospitalization or even death. According to the American Lung Association, nearly 16 million Americans are estimated to suffer from some form of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and it is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States.
COPD is an umbrella term used to describe airflow obstruction associated with chronic bronchitis, emphysema and asthma.
"In the case of COPD an ounce of prevention can be worth a pound of cure,” said Dr. Shari Brazinsky, a pulmonologist with Alvarado Hospital. "Allergies, colds or flu for some of us are only minor inconveniences in which we rarely seek medical attention. But for those with respiratory problems, a cold or flu can quickly turn into pneumonia. This is why it is imperative to diagnose and treat those with COPD as soon as possible.”
Dr. Brazinsky notes that those at a higher risk for developing COPD are as follows:
- long-term smokers and those exposed to second-hand smoke
- family history of COPD
- history of childhood respiratory infections
Symptoms of COPD include chronic cough, chest tightness, shortness of breath, an increased effort to breathe, increased mucus production and frequent clearing of the throat, according to the American Lung Association.
Dr. Brazinsky offers the following tips to help patients with COPD better manage their condition. Try to avoid the following:
- work-related fumes
- contact with people who have respiratory infections
- excessive heat, cold or high altitudes. ·
- a healthy diet and exercise program
- regular contact and visits with a healthcare provider to monitor COPD
- regular flu vaccinations