Breathe easy week is the British Lung Foundation’s annual awareness event, focusing on lung health to help raise awareness of lung conditions, fund life-changing research and provide important support and campaigning work every year.
Building on the previous successes of the British Lung Foundations ‘Breathe Easy week’ in previous years, this year’s re-branded National Lung Health Awareness Week has the theme of ‘Love your lungs’
Breathlessness is also known as dyspnoea and can be present at all times or can be intermittent. So what does being short of breath actually mean?
Shortness of breath has lots of different causes. It’s basically a natural response when your body needs more oxygen and energy when you do something that requires physical effort. Getting out of breath when we exercise is a positive reaction and is part of keeping our bodies fit and strong. If you’re out of breath without exercising, then some common causes can include a cold or chest infection, being overweight or smoking. It can also be a sign of a panic attack or anxiety but sometimes it could be a sign of something more serious, such as a lung condition called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or lung cancer.
COPD usually develops because of long-term damage to your lungs from breathing in a harmful substance, usually cigarette smoke, as well as smoke from other sources, air pollution, chemical fumes or exposure to asbestos and other toxic workplace dust. People who have asbestosis, a lung disease caused by asbestos, may develop COPD as a complication. Asbestos is also a known cause of pleural mesothelioma, a cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, and it is not uncommon for mesothelioma patients to also have COPD. You’re most likely to develop COPD if you’re over 35 and are, or have been, a smoker.
Tell your nurse or doctor if you feel out of breath or find it hard to breathe, even after light exercise, like walking or doing household chores. Don’t try to self-diagnose the cause of your shortness of breath. The British Lung Foundation have devised a Breath Test based on 5 short questions to help you see if you should be contacting your GP. 282,000 people so far have taken the breath test and 30% of people that took the test said they’d seen their GP after taking the test and 8% said that they had been diagnosed after taking the breath test. Based on the responses, that could be over 22,000 people that know they have a lung condition thanks to the test.
Your GP/Nurse will try to work out what might be making you breathless and get you the right care and treatment. Any treatment you may need depends on what’s causing your symptoms but they may refer you to other health professionals, such as physiotherapists or occupational therapists. They can support you in managing your symptoms and may recommend equipment that might help, such as walking aids, which we train the use of on our Manual Handling courses
There are lots of things you can do to make managing breathlessness easier;
- Medications – such as Inhalers and nebulisers, Steroids, Painkillers, relaxation medication and those with respiratory illness can have oxygen therapy at home
- Non-medical treatment – like controlled breathing techniques can help get more air into your lungs and allow you to feel more in control of your breaths.
- Fresh Air – try opening a window, or using a fan.
- Manage your anxieties. Learn what your triggers are so you can work on controlling them. Try talking to someone you trust such as a family member or close friend
- Relaxation CD’s – to help motivate you and regulate your breathing rhythms. The more you practice, the easier it will be for you to control your breathing when you feel breathless.
- Breathing control; learning about slower, controlled, breaths using the lower chest and keeping the upper chest and shoulders relaxed
Don’t panic if these don’t work for you. Ask your Doctor/Nurse about a treatment plan tailored just for you. They can give you a step-by-step plan of how to manage your breathlessness by yourself.
How Acorn can help
We can provide bespoke training based on a care plan to family members for someone who has COPD and other conditions covering basic First Aid or Oxygen Therapy Training. Our trainers use roleplay and simulation to support delegates gain enhanced resuscitation skills, basic anatomy and physiology.
We also provide Face Fit testing which provides employers with written evidence that respiratory protective equipment (RPE) including half mask respirators and disposable face masks ‘fit’ employees to prevent them inhaling poisonous substances. Testing comprises an initial sensitivity test, followed by a number of practical exercises, designed to mimic typical patterns of movement employees may experience whilst wearing RPE.
Our Asbestos awareness course is aimed at owners, managers and employees of any businesses that might come into contact with or have a responsibility to manage asbestos during the course of their work. This training is a must and is of particular interest to anyone working on buildings, particularly those built or refurbished before 2000. The course content provides delegates with an awareness of the risks associated with exposure to asbestos and how they should manage this and the Identification of asbestos and procedures to follow discovering asbestos.