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Check in: Take Our Exacerbations Quiz!

Posted on July 27, 2021   |   

This article was written by Bret Denning, JD

Exacerbations Quiz

Exacerbations: there’s a lot to learn and we want everyone affected by COPD to be aware of what to do in the event of an exacerbation or flare-up. Whether you are new to COPD or have been living with it for years, it is important to know what you can do to spot the warning signs and take action before it leads to a hospitalization.

Did you catch this material related to exacerbations?

How much do you know about exacerbations?

Here is a fun and easy to test yourself and to see what you know about exacerbations. At the bottom of this post is a short quiz for you to take and evaluate your own knowledge. We have also included links to some helpful resources for anyone who wants to learn more.

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Categories: Education, Resources and Studies Quizzes Tips for Healthy Living

A Tribute to Bob Harris - Visionary, Innovator and Entrepreneur

Posted on July 14, 2021   |   

This article was reviewed by the COPD Foundation Content Review and Evaluation Committee.

The COPD Foundation lost one of its most admired champions on July 5, 2021. Bob Harris will be remembered not only for his entrepreneurial skill and passion for improving people’s health, but also for his tireless efforts advocating for awareness of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and the millions of patients and caregivers it impacts each and every day.

Robert Myron ("Bob") was born on December 16, 1925 in New York City and died at home in Englewood, NJ surrounded by his family. Predeceased by his beloved wife, Cecily, he leaves behind a wealth of treasured memories and a model for realizing a full and loving life.

After a successful career as an advertising and marketing executive, Bob struck out on his own, becoming an unparalleled entrepreneur. Because of his family history of heart disease, he was driven to develop products that would improve people's health. Someone for whom the term “health and wellness” was part of his DNA long before it became a phrase in popular culture, Bob created companies whose products had a profound impact; Nutrition Industries, Weight Watchers, Heart Beat, Smart Balance and Grain Berry Cereals.

Just a few years ago Bob, along with his son Peter, President of Grain Berry, sat down with Dr. Mehmet Oz on the Dr. Oz Show to highlight the benefits of Grain Berry ONYX sorghum and Grain Berry cereals and products. Dr. Oz asked Bob, "At 91 years old why did you decide now to create a whole new way of eating cereal?" He replied, "I didn't decide now. I've done it all my life. My father died at age 40, my brother died at age 50. I just spent my entire life creating foods that would make you live longer and stronger." His tireless efforts to develop Grain Berry's 3-D antioxidant products, driven by his passion to fight diabetes, cancer, heart disease, continued to his very last days.

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Categories: Remembering Our COPD Heroes

July 2021 COPD Foundation COVID-19 Q&A

Posted on July 09, 2021   |   

This series of questions and answers on COVID-19 was authored by Dr. David Mannino, Medical Director and Co-Founder of the COPD Foundation.

What is happening right now with COVID-19 in the U.S.? How many people have been vaccinated?

While numbers of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are going down, this depends on where you live, and is related to how many people have gotten vaccines there. Those counties with fewer vaccinated people have more cases of COVID-19, hospitalizations, and deaths. Right now, about 67% of adults in the U.S. have gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine (although this is also different by county and age). More older adults are getting vaccinated than younger adults.

What does "fully vaccinated" mean? Is that important?

"Fully vaccinated" means having had two doses of the two-shot vaccine or one shot of the single-shot vaccine. Studies looking at protection against COVID-19 (including the new variants we will talk about below) show the most protection among people who are fully vaccinated.

Is there a relationship between COPD and COVID-19? If so, what do I need to be aware of?

The relationship between COPD and COVID-19 is not clear. Research studies show different results – some show a higher risk of COVID among COPD patients and others do not. Similarly, the risk of poorer health outcomes for COPD patients who get COVID-19 is also not clear. We do know that COPD exacerbations (flare-ups) and deaths went down in 2020, probably due to social distancing and mask wearing decreasing the spread of respiratory infections.

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Categories: Coronavirus (COVID-19) Education, Resources and Studies

Medical Marijuana for the Treatment of COPD

Posted on July 07, 2021   |   

This position statement was reviewed by the COPD Foundation Medical and Scientific Advisory Committee.

Background: Claims for using marijuana for treatment of COPD

There are several websites that make claims that marijuana can be an effective treatment for COPD. These websites state that "smoking marijuana may help (COPD) patients manage acute airway constriction attacks caused by inflammation and provide a preventive measure."1 They go on to state that medical marijuana can "possess antimicrobial properties, support the immune system, provide pain relief, reduce phlegm by acting as an expectorant, and promote better sleep."1 These websites make claims of effectiveness, but these claims are unsubstantiated and cannot be proven. Smoking, vaping, and dabbing marijuana can harm the lung tissues causing scarring and damage to small blood vessels.2 Marijuana smoke contains many toxins and irritants as tobacco smoke and can lead to greater risk of hyperinflation from increased mucus production.3 In addition the US Food and Drug Administration has not approved marijuana to treat COPD.

COPD Foundation Position

Medical marijuana is not recommended for the treatment of COPD. The COPD Foundation does not recommend the use of medical marijuana in the treatment of COPD or other lung diseases until there is rigorous scientific and medical proof of its effectiveness. Instead, the COPD Foundation encourages individuals with COPD to talk to their pulmonary physician about other scientifically proven treatment options for COPD.

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Categories: Position Statements

When a New Diagnosis Takes Your Breath Away

Posted on June 24, 2021   |   

This article was written by Kristen Willard, MS

I’ll never forget it. Even though 25 years has passed, I remember the moment vividly.

"Don’s cousin has that disease Kristen’s father has," my grandfather said nonchalantly, as relatives talked in a seafoam-green living room.

The disease my father has? What was he talking about? I wasn’t sure I wanted to know. I asked anyway. "What does my dad have?"

My grandfather continued without hesitation. "Emphysema," he said flatly. I don’t remember much after that.

My world was changed with a verbal gut punch, a statement that I assumed meant the worst. Twenty years earlier, my father held a tiny me as he stood at his mother’s memorial service. She had passed in 1977 from emphysema. That was the year that Elvis died and Roots debuted on television. COPD was most certainly not a household name.

Twenty years later, when my father was diagnosed, we still didn’t call it COPD. We didn’t have a Foundation to support us or search engines that brought medical information to our fingertips. As was the case with many conditions, the world did not necessarily want to discuss them. No one jumped to pull up a chair to the kitchen table and talk through a loved one being diagnosed, what doctors had told them about prognosis, what words like chronic and hyperinflation meant. So we navigated on our own and heard many things second hand after completed doctors’ visits. I’m glad so much of this is changing.

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Categories: Personal Stories

I Have COPD, Now What?

Posted on June 17, 2021   |   

This article was written by Angie Brunkhardt, RRT.

So, you have COPD. These words scare even the strongest people. What does having COPD mean? How does your doctor know this is truly the problem? How will COPD affect your life, your future? You probably have a few questions. Let us start by talking about what to expect when it comes to testing.

There is only one diagnostic test that can really confirm if you have COPD. That test is called a pulmonary function test (PFT). One part of the PFT is called a spirometry test. When you schedule your PFT, the testing center will remind you not to take your respiratory medications the day of your test.

For this test, a respiratory therapist will guide you through a series of breathing/blowing exercises while you have a nose clip and your mouth on a large mouthpiece connected to a spirometer to measure air flow. You will take in very deep breaths through the mouthpiece and blow out very hard and fast for several seconds. You will feel that you are really pushing yourself, and that is exactly the kind of effort needed for this test. You will repeat this test several times to make sure the results are as accurate as possible. When you finish the first part of the test, the respiratory therapist will give you a bronchodilator either by using inhaler or nebulizer, and you will repeat the breathing test again. By repeating the test after using the medication, the doctor can determine if your lung disease reacts to the medication. A positive reaction will show an increase in your numbers and less difficulty with the breathing test exercises you repeat.

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Categories: Education, Resources and Studies Tips for Healthy Living

How Does COPD Affect Breathing?

Posted on June 03, 2021   |   

This article was written by Stephanie Williams, BS, RRT.

How Lungs Work

When people are newly diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), they have lots of questions about what COPD is, what it means, and how it affects the lungs. Let’s take a few minutes to explore what COPD means and the difference between chronic bronchitis and emphysema. As you read, it is important to remember that many people living with COPD have features of both chronic bronchitis and emphysema. That is why we prefer to use the umbrella term chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Here we see a cartoon illustration of the tiny, delicate lung tissue called alveoli. Each individual image shows two alveoli. In healthy lungs, there are hundreds of millions of these tiny air sacs, or alveoli. In this illustration, you can also see a small segment of airways leading into the alveoli. These segments of the lung are microscopic in size. The one on the left is normal tissue, bronchitis is in the middle, and emphysema is on the right.

When the lungs become exposed to irritants, pollution, smoke, etc., different parts of the lung can be injured. The main difference between chronic bronchitis and emphysema is the location of this injury or damage in the lung. Chronic bronchitis affects the airways (breathing tubes), and emphysema affects the alveoli.

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Categories: Education, Resources and Studies

Your Lungs and the Environment

Posted on May 26, 2021   |   

This article was written by MeiLan Han, MD, MS, COPD Foundation Board Member.

Many of us don’t stop to think about how our environment impacts our lungs. While tobacco smoke contributes to the development of COPD, there are many other environmental factors that contribute both to the development of lung disease and can also make respiratory symptoms worse for those who do have lung disease.

To begin, it is now believed that air pollution not only contributes to the development of COPD but can also make respiratory symptoms worse and trigger exacerbations (also known as flare-ups). Hotter temperatures and drought increase the amount of dust and particle pollution we are exposed to. Wildfires in particular have become a major source of extremely high particle levels, noticeable even hundreds of miles from the fires themselves. Since air pollution can vary significantly on a daily basis, websites such as allow you to look up the Air Quality Index in your area at any given time. On unhealthy air quality days, you may want to stay indoors if possible, while keeping doors, windows, and fireplace dampers shut. Air cleaning devices with high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters can provide additional protection. If you must spend time outside, ordinary masks are unfortunately not that helpful for filtering the smaller, more dangerous particles. In these cases, an N-95 type mask is most effective; however, as many now know, these can be uncomfortable to wear and breathe through. When driving on unhealthy air days, another tip is to roll up your windows and operate the recirculate setting for your vehicle’s ventilation system.

We know that air pollution can also come from inside the home. Sources of indoor air pollution include asbestos, paint and cleaning supplies, as well as mold and radon. Strategies to reduce air pollution in the home include trying to use safer products. For instance, “low-VOC” (volatile organic compound) paints are now readily available. Cleaning products unfortunately often contain chemicals harmful to the lungs. Ammonia and bleach can irritate the airways. It is important to never mix bleach or any bleach-containing product with any product containing ammonia. This combination can create a gas which can cause significant breathing problems and even death. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a list of cleaning products that meet their new "Safer Choice" requirements.

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Categories: Education, Resources and Studies Tips for Healthy Living

Healthy Lungs from a Global Perspective: An Interview with Made Pramana

Posted on May 21, 2021   |   

This article was written by Stephanie Williams, BS, RRT.

Recently, the COPD Foundation’s Stephanie Williams spoke with Made Pramana, an individual from Indonesia who has been diagnosed with bronchiectasis. Read on to learn more about Pramana, his life in Indonesia, and how he helps people learn more about lung diseases.

If you could describe where you live in 100 words or less, how would you describe it? What is an average day like?

I live in Denpasar, which is the capital city of the island of Bali, Indonesia. Denpasar is a busy place, with lots of street vendors. People usually drive motorcycles or cars to commute. There is also public transportation, such as buses or taxis. There are some public places such as beaches, rice fields, parks, and a mangrove forest. Denpasar also has traditional markets, amusement parks, museum, hotels and pools. The housing in Denpasar is quite crowded since many people choose to live and work here.

People usually start the day by buying groceries at 5.30 AM in the morning. If they don’t have time to prepare a meal, the street vendors also sell breakfast. People also can buy foods for breakfast from the street vendor when they don’t have time to cook. Students used to go to school at 7 AM and many people go to work at 7-8 AM. For those that have time, they use the morning for exercise in the park, including yoga, walking, or jogging.

How are things different for you and your community now compared to before COVID?

The schools are still closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic and students have to learn online. There are fewer tourists in Bali since the start of the pandemic. Most people are still going to work; some wear masks and others do not. The same is true for recreational activities. I was at the beach the other day and saw many people swimming, biking, running, and walking. Many people were not wearing masks.

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Categories: Advocacy Personal Stories

Plain Language Summaries for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases: Journal of the COPD Foundation Articles

Posted on May 03, 2021   |   

This article was written by Cathy Gray Carlomagno, BS, Managing Editor Journal of the COPD Foundation

Several of the articles recently published in Volume 8, Issue 2 of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases: Journal of the COPD Foundation have corresponding plain language summaries. The summaries are short and written in simple, non-technical language with the goal of providing a helpful overview of the published "original research" or "review" article. These articles (and their short summaries) cover a variety of COPD-related research topics including screening, disease progression, COVID-19, sleep quality, and more.

Plain language summaries are available for each of the following articles:

Screening for Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency

In the article, "Improving Screening for Alpha-1 Antitrypsin with Direct Testing in the Pulmonary Function Test Laboratory" researchers offered patients whose pulmonary function tests indicated possible COPD, the opportunity to be tested for the genetic form of COPD—alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency. Several different testing options were offered, and some were more successful than others. For the complete plain language summary click here and scroll down.

COPD Progression

Researchers look at why COPD progresses to severe disease in some smokers but remains stable for years in others, in "Progression of Emphysema and Small Airways Disease in Cigarette Smokers." For the complete plain language summary click here and scroll down.

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Categories: Journal of the COPD Foundation

Harmonicas for Health: A Player’s Perspective

Posted on April 22, 2021   |   

This article was written by Stephanie Williams, BS, RRT.

I hate to admit this, but I can be cynical—especially when it comes to therapies and treatments for the patients I care about. When I was the Director of Respiratory Therapy in the acute care (hospital) setting, there would be the occasional visit from a salesperson who would try to convince me that the product they were selling was the latest and greatest thing to help me care for my patients. Sometimes the product would be a good addition to our collection of tools we used, but sometimes it was all show and no substance.

I share this with you is because I want you to know how strongly I feel about the Harmonicas for Health program. It truly does rank in my top five of products and programs that I believe can actually improve the quality of life of the participants.

When we started this program five years ago, I had no idea how much it would help people living with breathing problems. We knew it was going to be a good program, but I didn’t know how much people would love it or how much it would mean to them. Boy, was I surprised!

There are many reasons that people give for joining Harmonicas for Health. I recently spoke with Doug Martin, State Captain, and a long-time H4H participant and instructor about his experience with the program and how it helped him.

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Categories: Education, Resources and Studies Personal Stories Tips for Healthy Living

COVID-19 Vaccines for those with Lung Impairment

Posted on April 14, 2021   |   

Dear COPD Coach

I have had COPD for several years. The possibility of getting COVID-19 really scares me but so does the vaccination. Is it dangerous for someone with COPD to get the vaccination? I have heard that even healthy people are having a hard time with the shots.


Dear Scared,

I understand your concern and many of us have shared those same concerns. There seems to be no way of determining who will or will not have any side effects from the vaccine or which, if any, side effects they will have. Currently, the most common side effects for many of those getting the vaccines are tiredness, soreness or slight swelling at the injection site, slight fever, headache, chills, muscle aches and nausea. What is important to mention is that all of these symptoms remain for just a very short period of time and are easily treated with rest and over-the-counter pain relievers such as Tylenol or ibuprofen.

We received a few reports of slightly increased breathing problems in people with more severe lung disease (including myself) lasting around 24 hours. In each of these reports the symptoms were relieved by slightly increasing their oxygen flow or if they were only a night time oxygen user, having oxygen handy during the day. As with the other side effects from the vaccines, it lasted only a short time.

It goes without saying that the side effects pale in comparison to what one would experience if they actually got COVID-19. In my particular case I am very glad that I got the vaccine. After the first shot I had minor chills and a slight fever the following day. Other than having slightly increased breathlessness the second day after the second shot (that required increasing my oxygen flow by 1 LPM for 24 hours), the only other side effects I experienced were slight fever, tiredness and chills which required rest and some Tylenol. In both cases, I felt better by the third day.

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Categories: COPD360coach

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