How Your Environment Affects Your Lungs

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Your environment can affect the health of your lungs. If your environmental air quality is bad, your lungs may struggle with foreign particles. Environmental air quality is especially important if you have a lung condition. Keep reading to learn more about how the environment affects your lung health and how your lung care physician can help.

How the Lungs Filter Out Foreign Substances

When you breathe, your lungs take in air. They also take in airborne substances, like pollen, dust, and smoke. Fortunately, your lungs have a system to remove those substances. Your lungs' bronchial tubs contain small hair-like cilia.

Cilia move in a wave-like motion and carry mucous towards the mouth. The mucous contains the foreign substances you breathe in. When the mucous reaches your throat, you either swallow or spit it out.

Environmental Factors That Affect the Lungs

Many particles in the environment can affect your lungs if you get enough of them. Examples of commonly inhaled environmental substances include:

  • Smoke
  • Pollen
  • Dust
  • Vapor From Electronic Cigarettes
  • Pollution
  • Mold
  • Radon

People Who Are Most Susceptible to Environmental Factors

Most people's lungs can handle some particulate matter. As long as you don't get too much, your lungs will likely clear it out. However, certain people have a reduced ability to remove those substances. In some people, these substances cause severe inflammation or other airway restrictions. People who are most susceptible to foreign particulate matter include:

  • Those with asthma
  • Those with COPD
  • Those with pulmonary fibrosis
  • Those with cystic fibrosis
  • Those with sarcoidosis

Ways to Reduce Risks of Lung Problems From the Environment

Sometimes, you can control the amount of harmful particles you breathe in. For example, you can wear protective equipment at your job. If you smoke, you can stop. If someone in your household smokes, talk with them. Use an air filter and air purifier wherever possible. Have your home inspected for radon, a naturally-occurring carcinogen that can build up indoors.

When to See Your Doctor About Lung Problems

If you have breathing problems, see your doctor for an examination. Your doctor will look at your health history and perform tests. You may need X-rays and pulmonary function tests. Some medications can help your lungs cope with environmental conditions. Your doctor may give you suggestions on reducing your exposure.

Environmentally-related lung damage can be serious if you have an existing lung condition. While you can control some things in your environment, you may need to take extra steps for other things. If you have lung problems or think you had exposure to a dangerous substance, seek a lung care physician right away.

Contact a lung doctor for more information.