Prevent Lung Disease

PREVENT BREATHING BREAKDOWNS. Given the many factors that can have an effect on our lungs, it doesn't come as a surprise that many Canadians have experience with lung disease. Genetics, air pollution, cleaning solutions, smoking, and sleep disorders put our lungs at risk. Some risk factors may be unavoidable, but some basic knowledge and prevention  tips can help limit these threats.

Breathe Canada: Tips and Techniques to Keep Your Airways in Peak Condition

  • STOP SMOKING. Smoking damages your lungs and increases your risk for a number of diseases including lung cancer and COPD. This is because combustion of materials releases harmful substances into your lungs (toxins and carcinogens). If you have never smoked, don't start. If you are still smoking, it’s never too late to quit. Learn more about how to quit including the many effective medications and smoking cessation programs that work.
  • TEACH KIDS SMOKING STINKS. Make sure kids understand the dangers of smoking and be a role model by not smoking or by committing to quit.
  • AVOID SECOND- AND THIRD-HAND SMOKE. Breathing the smoke from cigarettes and pipes boosts your risk for the same diseases that affect people who smoke. Don't allow smoking in your home, in the car, or at work. Also stay away from third-hand smoke—residual tobacco fumes that adhere to walls and furniture that—along with indoor pollutants to form lung-damaging compounds. Clean your carpets. Paint the walls with low VOC paints. Rent smoke-free hotel rooms.
  • WASH YOUR HANDS. Wash thoroughly with soap and water several times a day to keep germs at bay and avoid most of the common infectious diseases that are spread by hand. Learn expert handwashing.
  • COVER YOUR COUGHS. To help stop the spread of germs, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Stay away from crowds during peak cold and flu season, get plenty of rest, eat well and keep your stress levels under control.
  • CONVERT YOUR FIREPLACE. The particulate matter in wood and waste can seriously damage your lungs. If possible, switch to a cleaner burning gas or wood stove or put in an electronic fireplace or gas insert.
  • CLEAN HOUSE. Air fresheners, mould, pet dander, and construction materials all pose a potential problem. Turn on the exhaust fan when you cook and avoid using aerosol products like hair spray. Change your furnace air filter seasonally. Learn about indoor air pollution and what you can do to reduce your exposure.
  • CHECK YOUR HOME FOR RADON. Radon gas (a naturally occurring radioactive gas produced by the breakdown of uranium in the ground) is a hidden killer and the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking. Find out if there are high levels of radon in your home or workplace. It may be leaking into the house through cracks in the foundation and walls.
  • WEAR A MASK. Canadian workers may be exposed to an excessive amount of dust, fumes, smoke, gases, vapors or mists in the workplace. Poor ventilation, closed-in working areas and heat increase are also disease-causing culprits. Avoid breathing in toxic fumes from chemical, solvents and paints. Wear protective masks when you work with chemicals and report unsafe working conditions. Go to lung screening and other health programs offered at work.
  • TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR. See your doctor if you experience shortness of breath, pain when breathing, dizziness with a change of activity, a persistent cough, wheezing or coughing with exercise, pain in the airway. If you have a chronic lung disease like asthma or COPD, work with your doctor to manage symptoms and flare-ups.
  • TAKE THE STAIRS. Do something active for 30 minutes each day to lighten the load on your lungs and increase the efficiency of oxygen transportation and metabolism. Walk around the building, bike around your neighborhood, or even run in place for a bit. 
  • BE AWARE OF THE AIR. People with lung diseases such as asthma and COPD need to pay particular attention to the levels of air pollution called particulates — tiny solid or liquid particles — in the environment and limit their outdoor exposure when levels are high. To learn more about particulates click here.
  • DON’T IDLE. Do your part to curb noxious air and turn off the ignition if you’re waiting more than 10 seconds.
  • GET VACCINATED. This is especially important if you have lung disease, though healthy people also benefit from getting vaccinated. If you have significant lung disease or are over 65, a pneumonia shot also is recommended.

Germ Control

Follow these steps to cut your risk of catching the common cold, the flu (influenza), and other viruses.

Vaccinations and lung disease

  • People with chronic lung disease, like asthma or COPD, have a greater risk of getting seriously ill from diseases that vaccines prevent. Vaccinations are an important measure to keep everyone healthy. Vaccination provides the best protection against vaccine preventable diseases.
  • Vaccines are one of the safest ways for you to prevent disease. Being vaccinated, quitting smoking and managing your chronic disease work together to keep you safe.
  • Vaccine side effects are usually mild and go away on their own. These include things like soreness, redness or swelling at the injection site. Some people may also experience mild fever after vaccination. Severe side effects are very rare.
  • People with chronic lung diseases, such as asthma, COPD, or cystic fibrosis, are at increased risk of complications of influenza and pneumococcal infection. People with these lung diseases and people who smoke should get the influenza vaccine every year. They should also get the pneumonia vaccine.

What vaccines do you need?

  • COVID-19 vaccine. Canadians with chronic lung disease may be more likely to experience severe illness, including hospitalization due to COVID-19. It is important to get vaccinated as soon as a vaccine is available to you. Find out more here.
  • Flu (influenza) vaccine. This type of vaccine can reduce the risk of serious illness, such as infections requiring hospitalizations.  The flu vaccine can prevent flare-ups of your COPD. People with asthma are more likely to experience complications from the flu.
  • Pneumococcal (pneumonia) vaccines. Canadians with existing lung disease are more likely to become severely ill from pneumonia. Some types of pneumococcal (bacterial pneumonia) infections are prevented with vaccination. People aged 65 and over only need a single pneumococcal vaccination. This vaccine is not given annually like the flu vaccine.  As there are two pneumonia vaccines, some people with chronic lung disease, including asthma may require two different vaccines to obtain better protection. Check with your doctor to find out what type of pneumonia vaccine you may need.

Where to get vaccinated?

Contact your local health unit, your pharmacy or doctor's office or visit for more information. You can get vaccines at most pharmacies and travel clinics. 




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Page Last Updated: 28/01/2019