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Why Does Breathing Get Harder in Autumn?
By Evalisa McClure, RN, VITAS General Manager

For most people, autumn means cooler temperatures, shorter days and a riot of colors as trees begin to shed their leaves. But for people who suffer from respiratory diseases such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or who are prone to allergies, the fall weather can increase the risk of chest infections and exacerbate existing symptoms. These problems can cause a host of symptoms such as nasal congestion, runny nose, itchy or watery eyes, chest congestion, cough, wheezing and labored and shallow breathing.
Respiratory troubles increase during fall for a number of reasons, including seasonal pollen, mold spores, drier air that irritates the throat and nasal passage—even exposure to travel-related infections from people returning from vacations. While some of these symptoms can be treated with over-the-counter medication and at-home care, it is important to consult a doctor if they worsen.
Use the following tips to limit respiratory troubles during autumn:

  • If a high pollen count is forecasted, take your allergy medication, especially if you are going outdoors
  • Keep outdoor chores like lawn mowing and gardening to a minimum. If it must be done, wear a dust mask
  • Close your doors and windows, especially at night and early morning, when pollen count is at its highest
  • Use a dehumidifier and a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter in your bedroom

Approximately 70 percent of hospice patients have difficulty breathing. Their respiratory symptoms need to be monitored closely and their status updated regularly, as conditions can change daily. At VITAS Healthcare, we offer comprehensive respiratory therapy to help our patients breathe more easily. This includes 24/7/365 advanced disease management, a respiratory therapist to make home visits, instruction to caregivers about respiratory treatments and techniques, and respiratory equipment such as CPAP and BIPAP.

As the nation’s leading provider of end-of-life care, VITAS has provided exemplary care to hospice patients throughout Pittsburgh and the surrounding areas since 2005. To learn more about end-of-life care, please call 412-799-2101 or visit VITAS.com.

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