Each day, we breathe thousands of times without giving it much thought. When breathing is compromised, it’s normal to want to find solutions as quickly as possible!
Breathing: a necessary reflex for survival
Breathing is a basic and natural act that we perform by reflex without much thought. To carry out its vital functions, the body absolutely needs a continual supply of oxygen. We can live for a few days without water and food. However, we can’t do without oxygen for more than a few minutes.
The primary function of the respiratory system is to supply the body with oxygen from the air (inhalation) while eliminating carbon dioxide, an organic waste product (exhalation). It is also involved in several other important biological functions, such as smell and speech. It consists of several parts: the nose, nasal cavities, sinuses, larynx, trachea, bronchi and lungs.
Each minute, we breathe 15 to 16 times (on average). Therefore, we breathe about 1000 times every hour, which is quite impressive. This crucial biological process can sometimes be compromised for various reasons. Respiratory health is a precious commodity that must be taken care of, even when we are healthy. When respiratory problems occur, there are various ways to resolve the situation. Here is some information about it.
Common ailments affecting the respiratory tract include viral or bacterial infections. In recent years, the presence of the coronavirus in the community has posed a threat to respiratory health. COVID-19 is a viral infection with respiratory symptoms that include coughing and difficulty breathing.
Colds and flu are also typical examples of very common viral infections for which people consult pharmacies or medical clinics. Pneumonia is a lung infection often caused by bacteria. These types of infections can compromise a person’s ability to breathe normally.
Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection is the leading cause of respiratory illness in young children, and in some cases can make them very ill. The degree of severity of this infection varies depending on several factors, including the age of the person with RSV. RSV is highly contagious, which is why prevention measures are so important.
For additional information about respiratory infections, read the following texts:
- The basics on COVID-19
- Managing mild COVID-19 symptoms at home
- Cold and flu: how to tell them apart
- Cold, flu... or COVID-19?
- Flu: complications from the flu and who is at risk
- Treating a cold and flu during pregnancy
- Fight cold and flu symptoms
- Spend your winter cold-free!
- Pneumonia: symptoms, risks, and treatment
- Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection
- Whooping cough
Coughing and nasal congestion
Coughing and nasal congestion are very common respiratory symptoms that can be caused by various factors: infection, allergy, dry mucous membranes, chronic illness, taking medication, etc. To ease them, it is preferable to identify the cause in order to resolve it. The use of over-the-counter medications can provide some relief. Speak to your pharmacist if you experience these types of symptoms.
For additional information about how to ease coughing and nasal congestion, read the following texts:
- Cough relief in young children
- Relieving bronchial congestion
- What causes coughing and how can it be relieved?
- How to relieve nasal and sinus congestion
- The best solution for baby’s stuffy nose
- Nose care: good habits to adopt
- Alleviating dry nose
Inflammatory respiratory diseases
Some respiratory diseases are characterized by inflammation of the airways. This is the case for asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and cystic fibrosis.
Asthma is a fairly common chronic illness characterized by recurrent attacks with symptoms such as difficulty breathing, wheezing and coughing. Symptoms may occur several times a day, a week or more rarely, depending on the severity of the condition and the level of management. Fortunately, today people with asthma can control their condition and lead a normal life.
The term COPD mainly encompasses two respiratory conditions characterized by chronic inflammation of the lower respiratory tract and airflow limitation: chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Smokers are particularly affected by COPD. Typical symptoms include coughing, sputum (phlegm), and shortness of breath on exertion, as oxygenation is more difficult.
Cystic fibrosis is a serious disease that affects the production of mucus in different areas of the body. Normally, thin liquid mucus is produced in the respiratory tract to help remove particles such as dust, among other things. For people affected by cystic fibrosis, the mucus is thicker and stickier. It can block the airways and make breathing more difficult, as well as promote the growth of bacteria. Therefore, infections are common in these individuals.
For additional information about respiratory diseases, read the following texts:
- Living with asthma
- Taking control of asthma
- Managing asthma at school
- Are you getting the most out of your asthma medications?
- Coping with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
- Cystic fibrosis
Other respiratory health problems
If you’d like to know more about respiratory health, you can also read the following texts:
- Sleep apnea
- Lung cancer: focus on prevention by quitting smoking
- Air-conditioning and its effects on health
- Smoking cessation
Speak to your pharmacist for additional information about respiratory health.