October is Healthy Lung Month, and the American Association of Nurse Practitioners® (AANP) is urging patients to take precautions against the list of growing threats to lung health — from COVID-19 and flu to vaping and wildfires.
“Our lungs do more than allow us to breathe. They enable every other organ in our body to function,” said AANP President Sophia L. Thomas, DNP, APRN, FNP-BC, PPCNP-BC, FNAP, FAANP. “As we continue to confront the COVID-19 pandemic and prepare for the 2020 flu season, parts of the country are dealing with the compounded respiratory threats of smoke-producing wildfires and flood-related mold issues. With so many patients potentially at risk for respiratory illness this year, AANP is urging all people to protect their lungs and avoid spreading respiratory viruses like the flu and COVID-19.”
AANP recommends patients take the following actions to protect the health of their lungs:
1Wear a mask in public.
People can significantly lower their chances of contracting or spreading COVID-19, the flu and other respiratory illnesses by wearing a face mask over their mouth and nose when out in public.
2Get a flu vaccine.
It is possible to have a concomitant infection of the flu and COVID-19. Patients can significantly lower their risk by getting a flu vaccine, which is safe, widely available and can be administered quickly by an NP or other health care provider.
3Stop smoking or vaping.
These habits not only increase the chances of developing further respiratory complications from viruses like COVID-19 and flu, but prolonged use can cause damage to the lungs and in other areas of the body.
4Don’t wait to be tested.
People experiencing symptoms of the flu or COVID-19 should call or schedule a visit with their health care provider as soon as possible. In many cases, an NP will be able to determine if you have the flu in under an hour using rapid testing capabilities.
5Stay informed about air quality conditions.
People experiencing poor air quality conditions as a result of exposure to smoke from wildfires or storm flood-related mold should stay up to date on recommendations and safety guidelines from local and state officials.
6Schedule a visit with an NP.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many patients have put their primary health care visits on hold. With many primary care practices re-opening, patients should schedule a visit with their primary care provider to ensure that vaccinations and exams are up to date. Those with chronic respiratory illnesses must also keep up with their treatments. This will help maintain optimal health.
“Patients need to understand that their respiratory health is at higher risk this fall, but there are steps they can take to protect themselves,” said Thomas. “NPs can be valuable partners in helping patients take control of their lung health and overall care — but it starts with wearing a mask in public, getting a flu vaccine, eliminating bad habits, reducing needless exposure to poor air quality and consulting with your health care provider if you’re symptomatic. Let’s do everything possible to protect our lungs and our health.”