Every Breath You Take

Every Breath You Take

Every Breath You Take

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Your home may be warm and cozy, but is it good for your lungs? People tend to take their lungs for granted. We know we can’t live without them, but we don’t spend much time taking care of them.

But as outdoor activities give way to indoor pursuits for the winter, it’s a good time to take steps to protect your lungs.

Keep Your Lungs Healthy

Lungs are part of the body’s natural defense system. And some simple steps can keep them healthy:

  • Don’t smoke or vape.
  • Avoid second-hand smoke.
  • Avoid household chemicals.
  • Get some physical activity.
  • Prevent infection — avoid sick people and get a flu shot.
  • Get your regular health check-ups. Your doctor will listen to your breathing.
Is Your Home Safe?

In addition to healthy lifestyle changes, you may need to make some changes around the house, too. There are many ways your home can hurt your lungs. Here are some things to watch out for.

Test for radon: Radon gas forms when natural uranium in soil, rock and water breaks down. It’s the No. 2 cause of lung cancer, but you can’t see it or smell it. The problems start when it gets into homes through holes or cracks in the walls or floors. A test can show if you have high levels in your house.

There are easy, inexpensive, do-it-yourself radon test kits you can get through the mail and in stores. Make sure you buy a test kit that has passed the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) testing program or is state-certified. These kits will usually say “Meets EPA Requirements.” The EPA offers more information about radon kitsleaving site icon 

Clean your house, especially the carpets: Keep your house clean and dry. Carpets can trap dirt and dust, mold and cockroach droppings, and dust mites. So vacuum regularly and have them steam cleaned yearly. And keep in mind that for some people, the chemicals in carpets can bother the lungs. Consider easy to clean flooring like tile or wood.

Check gas and wood burners: Some cooktops, ovens and heaters burn gas. If not used or maintained correctly, they can cause coughing, trigger asthma and inflame your lungs. So can burning wood, oil or kerosene. Make sure all appliances are installed and used correctly. Plan regular maintenance.

Clean your humidifier: The moisture your humidifier puts out can help you breathe easier. But without regular cleaning, it can also cause a fungus that can hurt your lungs.

Watch your candles: Some common candles release chemicals into the air. Heavy use over time can cause breathing problems for some people. Beeswax or soy candles can be a safer alternative. And make sure you use candles safely and in areas with good air flow.

Good air flow helps: If outside air can’t get in, pollutants can build to unhealthy levels in indoor spaces. Checking air flow can boost your health. And some people find relief from air cleaning filters or purifiers. And if your air conditioning and heating systems have filters, be sure to regularly clean them.

Experts say we spend 90 percent of our time indoors. Make sure what your breathing there isn’t hurting your health. 

Watch for Mold: Exposure to mold can trigger allergic reactions and asthma symptoms in people who are allergic to mold. And even those without allergies can experience irritation of the eyes, skin, nose, throat and lungs when exposed to airborne mold particles. The best way to control mold indoors is to control the sources of moisture. That means preventing excess moisture and fixing new problems quicklyleaving site icon

Want to Be Healthier? Don’t Smoke

A healthier life starts when you stop smoking. That’s because cigarette smoking is the major cause of lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), leaving site icon and other serious health problems.

It’s never too late to quit. It not only helps lower your risk for disease, your body also gets quick relief in several ways: 

  • Your heart rate drops to normal.
  • The carbon monoxide in your blood drops to normal.
  • Your risk of heart attack falls.
  • Your lung function starts to improve.
  • Coughing decreases.
  • You breathe easier.

Find Help

Many organizations offer help to stop smoking. Check out the American Lung Association’s free program called Freedom from Smoking. leaving site icon The American Cancer Society also offers free tips and support to stop using tobacco products. leaving site icon

Read Five Reasons Why Calling a Quitline Can be Key to Your Success leaving site icon to learn more about how smoking cessation programs can help you.

Your health plan may include a smoking cessation program. To find out, call the customer service number on your member ID card.

Sources: Protecting Your Lungs, leaving site icon American Lung Association, 2020; Ways to Keep Lungs Healthy, leaving site icon WebMD, 2019; The Inside Story: A Guide to Indoor Air Quality, leaving site icon U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission; Lung Cancer, leaving site icon Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), leaving site icon About Freedom from Smoking, leaving site icon American Lung Association; Five Reasons Why Calling a Quitline Can Be Key to Your Success, leaving site icon Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020; Stay Away from Tobacco, leaving site icon American Cancer Society

Originally published 10/5/2020; Revised 2023