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Warning signs of lung disease

The first signs of respiratory disease may be easy to overlook—or you may think shortness of breath is a normal part of aging. But a nagging cough, shortness of breath, excess mucus or wheezing could be an early sign of lung disease.

If you experience any of the following warning signs, make an appointment with your healthcare provider. The earlier you get diagnosed, the better chance you have to manage the disease.

Warning signs                        

Chronic cough: It is normal to cough occasionally, especially if you have a cold, flu or allergies. A cough that continues for weeks at a time may be a sign there is something wrong.

Shortness of breath: It is not normal to experience shortness of breath after little or no exertion or that doesn’t go away a short time after exercising. Shortness of breath is not a typical sign of aging. Difficulty breathing, where it is hard to breathe in or out, is also a warning sign.

Chronic mucus production: Your airways produce mucus to protect you from infection or irritants. It is normal to bring up small amounts of mucus. If you have excess mucus production that lasts a week or longer, this could be caused by a lung infection or lung disease such as COPD or asthma.

Wheezing: Noisy breathing or wheezing (a high-pitched whistling sound when breathing) may be a sign of inflammation or narrowing of your airway.

Coughing up blood: Coughing up blood or thick mucus signals a health problem and you should see your healthcare provider. A cough that makes you tired or light-headed or causes chest or stomach pain is also a reason to see your healthcare provider.

Chest pain: Unexplained chest pain, especially if it gets worse when you breathe in or cough, is also is a warning sign.  See your healthcare provider.

Take the Lung Health Check

Take a few minutes to answer nine simple questions in our Lung Health Check to check for symptoms of the more common lung diseases. If you answer YES to any of the questions, see your healthcare provider to have your lungs checked.

Talking to your healthcare provider

After making an appointment with your healthcare provider, take these steps to prepare for the visit:

  1. Write down your symptoms, when they started and when they occur. Keep track of anything that improves your symptoms.
  2. Make a list of all the medications you are taking, including prescriptions, over-the-counter medicines, herbs and supplements.
  3. Make a list of all the healthcare providers you see and why.
  4. Write down the questions you want to ask your healthcare provider—and don’t be afraid to ask them.

Questions about lung health?

Call our Lung Health Information Line.  Whether calling about yourself or someone you care about, we are here to help. The Lung Association offers free information and guidance on lung health concerns, including lung diseases, counselling to help you quit smoking and indoor and outdoor air quality issues. Call us at 1-888-344-LUNG (5864) Monday to Friday, 8:30a.m.-4:30p.m. Or email info@lungontario.ca