While most people know October as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, few also know it is Healthy Lung Month. As a pharmacist, you can help your patients learn more about how to keep their lungs healthy and strong, providing extra education throughout October.
The most important thing you can do is talk to your patients about the dangers of tobacco use, as it continues to be the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the US. Smoking is a leading cause of lung disease, and it harms nearly every organ in the body. Point your patients in the direction of free smoking cessation classes in your local area, and advise they talk to their doctors about the use of smoking cessation aids such as nicotine patches, gum, and inhalers. Make sure to have smoking cessation materials on hand to give to patients who express interest in quitting.
Beyond discussing the merits of not smoking, use this month to highlight other ways people can take care of their lungs, such as avoiding exposure to harmful pollutants that can cause lung damage. Make sure patients know to wear masks and keep areas well ventilated when working with harsh chemicals.
Tell patients to make sure their indoor air quality is as good as possible; one way is to use an air filtration system to remove contaminants and irritants from the air. Those with asthma and allergies should be even more careful. Stay inside when allergens are high and outdoor air quality is low, and avoid outdoor exercise on those days, as well.
Discuss regular healthy habits to help patients learn about how to protect themselves from colds and other respiratory infections. While children and young adults can usually bounce back from the common cold quite easily, young babies and elderly people are at an increased risk for developing more serious conditions. Tips to discuss include:
- Washing hands often using soap and water. If hand washing is not an immediate option, using an alcohol based hand sanitizer can work in the short term.
- Practice good oral hygiene, as germs in your mouth can lead to infection in other areas of the body, as well.
- Get a flu vaccine every year, and talk to your doctor about whether or not you should also get a pneumonia vaccine.
- Do your best to avoid crowds during cold and flu season – and if you do get sick, keep your distance from others (stay home from work or school) until you are feeling better.
Also be sure to discuss the merit of regular checkups with a doctor – as staying ahead of any lung problems is the best way to take care of yourself. Together with other healthcare professionals, pharmacists can make a difference – and it all starts with patient education.