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But as outdoor activities give way to indoor pursuits for the winter, it’s a good time to take steps to protect your lungs.
Lungs are part of the body’s natural defense system. And some simple steps can keep them healthy:
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 kits.
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 quickly.
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), 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:
Many organizations offer help to stop smoking. Check out the American Lung Association’s free program called Freedom from Smoking. The American Cancer Society also offers free tips and support to stop using tobacco products.
Read Five Reasons Why Calling a Quitline Can be Key to Your Success 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.
Originally published 10/5/2020; Revised 2023
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico, a Division of Health Care Service Corporation, a Mutual Legal Reserve Company, an Independent Licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association
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