Importance Of Seeking Immediate Help When Suffering Breathing Problems

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The tightness in your chest may not be indigestion. It may be a sign of asthma, and if not treated, it could be fatal. That constant cough may be due to smoking tobacco over the years, but it also could be a symptom of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), which should be diagnosed and treated or it could be fatal.

Don't take breathing for granted. That is the message an army of 132,000 respiratory therapists across the United States will spread during Respiratory Care Week (Oct. 22-27), promoted by the American Association for Respiratory Care.

Today marks the 26th anniversary of Respiratory Care Week, a week dedicated to educating Americans about lung health while recognizing the efforts of respiratory therapists who work each day to help patients with lung disease. There are 32 million Americans diagnosed with a lung disease, 20 million with asthma plus 12 million with COPD. However, there are millions of Americans with these respiratory diseases who have not been diagnosed. That's the danger.

"Any time an adult or child struggles to breathe for any length of time, they should be examined by a doctor immediately," said Tom Kallstrom, associate executive director of the American Association for Respiratory Care. "Americans have come a long way in the past few decades to understand asthma, but people still die because they don't seek help when they suffer breathing difficulties. Many of those suffering with undiagnosed COPD are even worse off, because they won't seek help due to guilt or denial."

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"Suffocating Disease"

Asthma is sometimes referred to as the "suffocating disease" and is on the rise. In the 10-year period between 1979 and 1989, asthma cases increased by 60 percent. No one has been able to definitively explain this upward trend, but several factors have been suggested, such as increasing exposure to infections, air pollutants and the quality of the air. Of the 20 million Americans diagnosed with asthma, 9 million are children. Asthma is closely linked to allergies. Most, but not all, people with asthma have allergies. Children with a family history of allergy and asthma are more likely to develop the respiratory illness.

According to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, COPD is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. The disease kills more than 120,000 Americans each year (one death every four minutes), and causes serious, long-term disability. The number of people with COPD is increasing. There are currently more than 12 million Americans diagnosed with COPD, but there are an estimated 12 million more undiagnosed COPD sufferers.

Grassroots Events

To educate Americans about asthma and COPD during Respiratory Care Week, respiratory therapists will be conducting lung health seminars and educational events at hospitals across the country.

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