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Spotlight on Asthma: January 2017

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Venn diagram of asthma and copd Asthma-COPD Overlap Syndrome

When someone has both asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), it is often called asthma-COPD overlap syndrome (ACOS). People with ACOS show features of both asthma and COPD. Read More

New Year’s Resolution—With a Twist

Quitting smoking is the best solution for your lung health and those around you, but if you’re cutting down or aren’t ready to quit, there is a twist that still applies—take it outside. Read More

My asthma diary coverBenefits of Using an Asthma Diary

An asthma diary is a tool that can help you monitor your asthma and keep it under better control. By keeping track of this information, you can find patterns in your symptoms that help you and your health-care provider better manage your asthma. Read More

peanutsNew Peanut Allergy Guidelines

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) in the United States recently released new guidelines on the introduction of peanut-containing foods to infants to prevent the development of peanut allergy. Read More


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Asthma-COPD Overlap Syndrome (ACOS)

Symptoms of lung disease can include shortness of breath, cough with or without mucus, chest tightness and wheezing. Often, people with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) have similar breathing complaints.

Most of the time, asthma is diagnosed in childhood. However, asthma can also be diagnosed later in life. COPD is mostly diagnosed in older adults (after the age of 40).

But what about Asthma-COPD Overlap Syndrome (ACOS)?

Venn diagram of asthma and copd

Definition
ACOS is not well understood and there is no clear definition of it. More research is needed. ACOS is not one disease alone. People with ACOS show features of both asthma and COPD. From one person to the next, there are different reasons why ACOS may be diagnosed. ACOS can also be harder to treat. People who have ACOS may have more symptoms and more flare-ups than people who have either asthma or COPD alone.

Diagnosis
A diagnosis starts with taking a detailed medical history (age, history of allergies, childhood infections, smoking, exposure to air pollution, occupation), doing a physical exam, and then doing other types of tests. The most important test used to diagnose asthma and COPD is a breathing test called spirometry. Spirometry measures how well your lungs are functioning. Your health-care provider will have you do the spirometry test before and after using a bronchodilator (a medication that helps to relax the muscles around your airways). A certain improvement in your lung function after using a bronchodilator helps support the diagnosis of asthma. If your lung function doesn’t improve or only improves slightly after using a bronchodilator, then you may have COPD. Spirometry testing can also help to determine if you have ACOS.

Treatment
Health-care providers follow different treatment guidelines for asthma versus COPD. Treatment for ACOS may overlap with treatment for asthma and COPD. The main type of medication used for long-term control of asthma is an inhaled corticosteroid, which controls airway inflammation (swelling). The main type of medication used to treat COPD is a bronchodilator, which opens up your airways to reduce shortness of breath. In COPD, an inhaled corticosteroid combined with a bronchodilator is often prescribed if you have regular flare-ups (lung attacks). The treatment for ACOS is less clear, but may include both medications that treat asthma and medications that treat COPD.

Leading a smoke-free life and getting regular exercise are important for anyone, but especially important if you have been diagnosed with COPD. A flu vaccination is recommended for individuals with asthma or COPD. A pneumonia vaccination is recommended for individuals with COPD, and for those who required medical attention for asthma within the last 12 months.

If you think that you may have asthma, COPD or even ACOS, speak to your health-care provider.

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A Famous New Year’s Resolution—With a Twist

As holiday feasts and celebrations fade into the background, the focus shifts to the New Year and coming up with a laundry list of all the ways in which we will be better people or lead healthier lifestyles. As we try to follow through on our aspirational resolutions, some of us may have joined a gym and sweated through a few workouts. Others may have added more greens to their diet.  Or maybe the change has been as simple as taking a moment out of your hectic schedule just to breathe.

That still leaves the one daunting resolution that plagues many each year—quitting smoking. With this week being National Non-Smoking Week (January 15-21, 2017), this famous New Year’s resolution is top-of-mind for many. Quitting is the best solution for your lung health and those around you, but if you’re cutting down or aren’t ready to quit, there is a twist that still applies—take it outside. It is an easy thing to do, although it may require extra energy to bundle up in the cold weather. But keeping indoor air smoke-free is the best way to protect others, especially children and the elderly, from numerous lung health problems like a higher risk of asthma, bronchitis and pneumonia.

“It’s already hard enough for the more than two million children and adults living with asthma in Ontario to breathe. It makes it even harder when cigarette smoke is part of the cocktail they are breathing,” says George Habib, President and CEO of The Lung Association – Ontario. Second-hand smoke, the combination of burning tobacco and the smoke exhaled by the person smoking, triggers asthma by causing airways to tighten and swell. These severe and hard to control asthma flare-ups may result in shortness of breath, wheeziness and coughing. They typically require the use of more medication and increased trips to the doctor or hospital.

Habib says “by taking it outside you can help ensure that the 7,000 chemicals, which make up second-hand smoke, are not impairing the breathing of those around you.” Of these chemicals, hundreds are toxic and almost 70 can cause cancer. Their levels are even higher in second-hand smoke than the smoke inhaled directly from a cigarette.

Often ignored third-hand smoke adds another layer of potential health problems to those around it. More research suggests that third-hand smoke may be a larger cause for concern than previously thought. The invisible toxic mixture of chemicals, including lead and arsenic, which make up third-hand smoke stick around long after a cigarette is put out. Third-hand smoke can be found on the clothes of someone who smokes, in carpets and furniture, on floors and children’s toys—placing children at a much higher risk of exposure as they crawl around on the floor and often put their hands in their mouths. They can breathe in third-hand smoke residue and if they touch it, they can even ingest it.

Whether you’re ready to quit now or quit later, taking it outside will help vulnerable lungs around you stay healthy and breathe easy.

The Lung Association has resources available to help:

  • Steps to Make Your Home Smoke-free
  • Third-Hand Smoke
  • Journey 2 Quit (a workbook to help you quit smoking)

To order or download a copy of any of these, or if you have questions about asthma and smoking, call the Lung Health Information Line at 1-888-344-LUNG (5864), email info@on.lung.ca or go to www.on.lung.ca.

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Benefits of Using an Asthma Diary

My asthma diary cover

An asthma diary is a tool that can help you monitor your asthma and can keep it under better control. You can use the asthma diary to keep track of your:

  • Asthma symptoms
  • Medication use
  • Peak flow readings (if you use a peak flow meter)
  • Exposure to asthma triggers

By keeping track of this information, you can find patterns in your symptoms that help you and your health-care provider better manage your asthma.

The asthma diary can also help you and your health-care provider see if any changes to your treatment plan is giving you better control of your asthma. Bring your asthma diary to every visit with your health-care provider.

Asthma diary chart

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New Peanut Allergy Guidelines

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) in the United States recently released new guidelines on the introduction of peanut-containing foods to infants to prevent the development of peanut allergy.

peanutsNew research shows that you may be able to prevent peanut allergy by introducing peanut-containing foods early in life. In the study, the infants who were regularly fed peanut-containing foods reduced their risk of developing peanut allergy by 81 per cent.

For more information visit:

Ask your health-care provider for advice on introducing peanut-containing foods to your child.

 

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