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Aug 25, 2010 12:59 PM

Respiratory Helpline Questions

1. What are the signs of an upper respiratory infection besides feeling uncomfortable, having a stuffy nose, and sounding congested?

  • Facial pain or pressure.
  • A runny or stuffy nose, which may lead to blockage of the nasal passages and cause you to breathe through your mouth.
  • A sore throat.
  • Irritability, restlessness, poor appetite, and decreased activity level.
  • Coughing, especially when lying down.
  • Fever that occurs suddenly and may reach 103 or higher.

2. How do I know if I have allergies or a lower respiratory system infection?

With allergies your symptoms will include sneezing, clear runny drainage from the nose and eyes, itchy eyes or nose, and stuffy, congested ears and sinuses. While the symptoms of a lower respiratory problem are more severe with a cough that continues throughout the day and night, often producing green, yellow, brown, or gray mucus from the lungs, fever, and difficulty breathing (wheezing, shortness of breath, flaring the nostrils).

3. I have a child that lives with asthma, what things in his environment should I be aware of that could trigger his asthma?

  • Viral infections (cold or flu)
  • Pollen
  • Pet dander
  • Mold spores
  • Dust mites
  • Cockroaches
  • Irritating pollutants in the air
  • Fragrances and fumes
  • Smoke

4. I have been a smoker most of my life and I'm concerned about my risks of developing Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease/Emphysema?

While you can't undo the damage to your lungs, there are things that you can do at home to stay as healthy as possible: Use an air conditioner or air filter in your home; take rest breaks during the day; get regular exercise to stay as strong as you can; eat well so that you keep up your strength

If the disease is more advance, your physician can prescribe the following treatments that may help you manage your symptoms: Medicines can help you breathe easier; a pulmonary rehab program with health professionals can help you learn to manage your disease; or it may be time to use oxygen some or most of the time.

5. Is there a relationship between asthma and stress?

Yes, stressful events have been associated with asthma symptoms known as a Stress-induced asthma attack. The strong emotions from stress and anxiety trigger the release of chemicals (histamine and leukotrienes) which can cause the narrowing of your airway. The key is to not panic and take deep breaths. Asthma attacks typically subside in 5-10 minutes, if they don't ease in 15 minutes or it gets worse, seek medical help.

6. Should respiratory infections be treated with antibiotics?

Certain respiratory infections (such as colds, flu, most coughs and bronchitis) are viral infections and should not be treated with antibiotics.

7. Do you have any advice on cold medicines for someone living with a heart condition?

Decongestants can also increase blood pressure, so people with high blood pressure or heart disease should use them cautiously. There are decongestant-free cold medicines available if you have high blood pressure.

8. Are there breathing techniques I can do to strengthen my breathing muscles?

Yes there are techniques you can use to get more oxygen and breathe with less effort. Here are two breathing exercise examples you can begin doing for five to 10 minutes, 3 to 4 times a day, but if shortness of breath becomes sever, stop the exercise:

Pursed lip breathing:

1. Relax your neck and shoulder muscles.

2. Breathe in for two seconds through your nose, keeping your mouth closed.

3. Breathe out for four seconds through pursed lips. If this is too long for you, simply breathe out twice as long as you breathe in.

Use pursed-lip breathing while exercising. If you experience shortness of breath, first try slowing your rate of breathing and focus on breathing out through pursed lips.

Diaphragmatic breathing:

1. Lie on your back with knees bent. You can put a pillow under your knees for support.

2. Place one hand on your belly below your rib cage. Place the other hand on your chest.

3. Inhale deeply through your nose for a count of 3. (Your belly and lower ribs should rise, but your chest should remain still.)

4. Tighten your stomach muscles and exhale for a count of 6 through slightly puckered lips.

9. If I live with chronic respiratory problems, how can I protect myself from flare-ups? You need to get an annual flu shot as well as a pneumonia shot. Talk with your doctor about age appropriateness and number of shots recommended for the pneumonia shot (a second shot is sometimes recommended).

This information is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. Our Lady of Lourdes and KATC disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

Ref: WebMD online at; Our Lady of Lourdes website under Illnesses & Conditions


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