When is a Cough Serious?

A man sitting on a couch coughing.Coughing is a normal reflex and often does not signify a serious underlying medical condition. However, a cough could be connected to a more significant health issue and should be evaluated by a doctor when it is:

  • Severe
  • Worsening over time
  • Occurring frequently over several days or weeks

A cough can be either “acute,” meaning that it lasts less than three weeks, or “chronic,” meaning that it lasts longer. Some causes of acute cough, such as the common cold or exposure to airborne irritants, are not necessarily causes for concern on their own, but others, such as pneumonia and influenza, are potentially life-threatening for some people, such as older adults, infants, and people with compromised immune systems or chronic health conditions.

In many cases, chronic coughing is also not indicative of a major, life-threatening health problem, such as when it is caused by mild allergies or asthma. However, it may be a cause for concern when it is severe, frequent, or accompanied by one or more other symptoms, including (but not limited to):

  • Coughing up blood
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest tightness
  • Fatigue
  • Unintended weight loss

These symptoms could indicate that a cough is associated with a serious underlying medical condition, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, lung cancer, cystic fibrosis, or pulmonary embolism. If you experience these symptoms, it’s important to get evaluated by a doctor as soon as possible.

You can receive diagnostic care and specialized treatment for your cough at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center’s Ambulatory Care Center. To schedule an appointment, please call (718) 206-7001.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.

How Can Mold Impact Your Health?

Mold growth is a common issue in many homes, and one that can cause a variety of medical problems. Many of the potential physical responses to mold exposure, such as a stuffy nose, sneezing, and red, itchy eyes, may occur more strongly in people who are allergic to mold or who have asthma. In some cases, severe reactions such as fever or shortness of breath can occur.

Mold is typically found in moist areas, such as parts of your home that have experienced flooding or leaks from your roof, windows, or pipes. It’s most likely to grow on wood-based products such as paper or cardboard, as well as some ceiling or floor tiles. Other materials that mold can grow on include:

  • Paint
  • Drywall
  • Carpet
  • Fabric
  • Insulation
  • Upholstery

You can often identify mold by its sight and smell. It often produces a musty odor and appears as one or more patches that are slimy, fuzzy, and/or discolored; these patches grow larger over time. Mold may also grow in places that are not easy to see, such as behind or under furniture, as well as inside pipes or walls. You can look for areas of your home where mold is most likely to grow by looking for signs of water stains or warping due to water damage.

If you notice signs of a mold problem in your home, make sure to identify the source of any water leakage and correct it, as well as discard any items with extensive mold growth or water damage that can’t be thoroughly cleaned and dried. Small areas of mold growth can be cleaned with soap and water, but for large-scale mold problems, it may be best to hire a licensed contractor to correct the issue.

If you are experiencing medical problems due to mold exposure, you can receive treatment at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center’s Ambulatory Care Center. To schedule an appointment, please call (718) 206-7001.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.

Protecting Yourself From Wildfire Smoke and Poor Air Quality

Ongoing wildfires in Canada have brought significant amounts of smoke to New York City, resulting in record levels of air pollution. This smoke presents a variety of health hazards, particularly for certain at-risk groups. However, it is important to note that high levels of smoke can affect anyone, even people who are otherwise healthy.

Wildfire smoke in particular includes a mixture of gases and fine particles that can cause coughing, sneezing, eye and sinus irritation, and shortness of breath. In people with certain medical conditions, exposure to smoke may cause symptoms of those conditions to worsen. People who are at the highest risk include:

  • People with lung diseases such as COPD or asthma
  • People with cardiovascular disease
  • Older adults and children
  • Expectant mothers

Anyone who may be exposed to smoke should take effective measures to protect themselves. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that you:

Reduce smoke exposure as much as possible: You should minimize the amount of time you spend outdoors for as long as poor air quality alerts due to the smoke remain in effect. While inside, keep all doors and windows closed; if possible, use an air purifier or make sure your air conditioner has high efficiency filters that can prevent fine particles from entering your home.

Wear a mask: If you must go outside while air quality alerts remain in effect, make sure to wear a mask. N95 respirators are ideal, as these offer the highest level of protection against airborne particles.

Consult your doctor: If you are at heightened risk of adverse health effects due to smoke, talk to your doctor about what you should do if your symptoms worsen and about any medication you should have on hand to manage them.

If you experience smoke-related medical problems, contact your doctor as soon as possible. If a medical emergency occurs, please dial 911 immediately.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.

Can Exercise Relieve Nasal Congestion?

Mild to moderate physical exercise can temporarily relieve nasal congestion. A runny nose often occurs because of irritation in your nasal passages. This can occur due to a variety of causes, including sinus infections, airborne substances such as smoke or strong perfumes, and allergies.

Exercises such as push-ups can provide quick relief by opening your nasal passages and reducing inflammation that may be affecting them. However, this may not be the best approach in all cases.

Relieving nasal congestion through light exercise can be helpful when your symptoms are not severe and are limited to your nose, throat, or other parts of your head. However, if you’re experiencing symptoms that are worse or occurring in other parts of your body, such as a fever, fatigue, chest congestion, or muscle aches, it may be best to rest and avoid unnecessary exertion.

Additionally, physical exercise may even be a contributing factor to your nasal congestion in certain cases. If you have asthma, for example, your congestion may be a result of exercise-induced asthma, which causes your airways to constrict in response to hard physical activity.

Before exercising with nasal congestion or a cold, you should talk to an ear, nose, and throat doctor (ENT), also known as an otolaryngologist, to determine the cause of your congestion and whether physical exercise may help or harm your symptoms. An otolaryngologist can also prescribe decongestant medication or recommend alternative methods of relieving your congestion that may be safer for you, such as:

  • Using a humidifier
  • Taking a hot shower
  • Drinking more water throughout the day
  • Applying a warm compress to your face

If you’re experiencing nasal congestion, you can find an otolaryngologist at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center. To schedule an appointment, please call (718) 206-7110.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.

What is Baker’s Lung?

“Baker’s lung” refers to the high risk that bakers, grain millers, and similar professionals face of developing asthma due to regular exposure to certain workplace irritants. Baker’s lung is one of the most common forms of occupational asthma in the United States. Occupational asthma affects up to 25% of people with asthma throughout the country.

The substances that bakers and similar professionals are exposed to during their work day include flour, grains, bread additives, eggs or egg powder, yeast, nuts, and even other common allergens such as dust mites and mold. Taken together, these irritating substances create environments that make bakers one of the most high-risk professions for occupational asthma.

If you are a baker, you may need to work with your employer to ensure that your workplace is able to accommodate your health needs. Occupational asthma triggers can be controlled to reduce or prevent incidents of workplace asthma attacks in the following ways:

  • Using tools such as protective equipment, as well as allergy-friendly ingredients such as low-dust flour, to prevent the creation and inhalation of irritating dust.
  • Ensuring that your work area is properly ventilated.
  • Keeping an inhaler present in the workplace and make sure your employer and coworkers know where it can be found.
  • Ensuring that environmental checks are performed regularly to identify triggering substances in the workplace.

An important part of managing your asthma symptoms while working is ensuring that you’re receiving adequate medical care to control them. If you require a diagnosis or treatment, you can schedule an appointment at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center’s Ambulatory Care Center by calling (718) 206-7001 now.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.

Learn The Facts About Asthma

Asthma is a disease that affects the airway’s ability to deliver oxygen to the lungs. It causes periodic attacks of wheezing and difficulty breathing. An asthma attack occurs when the airways become inflamed in response to a trigger. Triggers are factors that bring about an asthma attack. There are many types of triggers including:

• Allergens – Such as pollen, mold, animal fur, dust, dust mites, and cockroaches

• Viral Infections – Viral infections of the respiratory tract often act as major triggers, since they irritate the airways, nose, throat, and sinuses

• Irritants – Examples of irritants are perfumes, household cleaners, cooking fumes, painting supplies, coal, chalk, and sudden changes in the weather

• Tobacco Smoke and Wood Smoke – No one should smoke in the home of an asthmatic

• Exercise – It is estimated that 85% of all asthmatics encounter wheezing after exercise

• Sensitivity to Medications – Up to 20% of all adult asthmatics experience an attack as a result of allergic reactions to medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and sulfites

During an asthma attack, the walls of the airways become inflamed and the mucous membrane covering the walls becomes swollen with fluid. Sticky mucus fills the remaining space, making it difficult to breathe. Because air cannot flow in and out of the lungs freely, a whistling or wheezing sound may be heard. During severe attacks, wheezing may stop because there is too little air moving to make any noise.

The key to diagnosing asthma is recognition of the recurrent symptoms of cough, shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, or wheezing. If these symptoms are present, a physician will perform a pulmonary function test, also known as a spirometry. The test measures the “peak flow,” which is the speed of air blown out of the lungs. Asthmatics have trouble blowing air out, and therefore have lower peak flow measurements. A normal range for peak flow is based on the person’s age, weight, and sex. Daily measurement of the peak flow at home is essential to effectively manage asthma. Decreases in peak flow will alert the patient of the need for further treatment or an emergency medical visit to the doctor.

To treat asthma, the first step is to avoid the triggers that you are sensitive to whenever possible. Prescription medicines are usually needed to combat asthma. There are two main groups of asthma medicines: bronchodilators, which help stop asthma attacks after they have started and anti-inflammatories, which help prevent attacks from starting.

After a course of treatment is prescribed, it is very important to check regularly with your doctor to make sure that the medicines are helping you.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.

What is Exertional Asthma ?

Do your asthma attacks coincide with participation in physical activity such as exercise? As in all types of asthma, as the airways tighten, it becomes  difficult to take a complete breath, and the airways produce extra mucous.

 

The symptoms of exertional asthma include:

  •  Wheezing
  •     Tightness of the chest
  •      Coughing
  •      Feeling tired
  •      Inability to catch your breath

Some activities that can lead to heavier than normal breathing such as recreational sports including:  running, basketball, football, soccer, and aerobic exercise. These can lead to exertional asthma.  Additionally, when the air is cold and dry, activities such as shoveling snow or walking for long periods of time can also trigger an asthma attack.

Other contributing factors of exertional asthma can include:

  •  Smoke or smog
  •     High pollen counts
  •     Having a cold or other respiratory infection
  •     Chlorinated pools or other chemical irritants

Treatment of exertional asthma includes taking medications both on a regular basis and  prior to doing strenuous exercise to limit symptoms and control breathing. Some activities and sports should be avoided if they bring on asthma attacks.

If you are experience difficulty breathing while participating in strenuous activities, you should consult with a pulmonary specialist for a complete respiratory evaluation. Please call 718-206-7001 to schedule an appointment with a pulmonologist at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.

The Relationship Between Asthma and GERD

There is strong evidence that a relationship exists between asthma and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). According to research, more than 75 percent of people living with asthma have GERD. The reason for this is not certain but studies show a relationship between stomach acid and airways.

GERD which is the reverse flow of stomach acid into the esophagus seems to worsen asthma. One explanation as to why this happens may involve stomach acid which flows back in to the esophagus irritating the throat, the airways and the lungs. It is also a possibility that the acid affects a nerve in the esophagus which causes the lungs to tighten.

Ways to avoid the effects of GERD include:

  • Raising the head of the bed by 6 inches to keep stomach acid from flowing back in to the esophagus
  • Waiting three to four hours after eating a meal before laying down
  • Eating smaller meals
  • Keeping your weight under control
  • Quitting smoking
  • Avoid eating fatty food, chocolate, spicy foods, citrus fruits, tomato sauce,  coffee, tea, or alcohol before laying down

Speak to your physician about treatment options that may be best for you. You can also schedule an appointment with a physician at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center by calling 718-206-7001.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.

Are You At Risk for Asthma?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 13 people has asthma. That translates to more than 26 million Americans.

Asthma is a condition in which your airways narrow and swell, producing extra mucus resulting in difficulty breathing.

If this narrowing and swelling occurs and worsens, it may lead to an asthma attack.

Some tips to help you prevent asthma symptoms from occurring include:

  • Family history of asthma
  • Viral respiratory infections as a child
  • Allergies
  • Smoking
  • Air Pollution
  • Obesity

Some strategies you help prevent the symptoms of asthma are:

  • Stop smoking and avoid public places where cigarette smoking occurs
  • Avoid outdoor exposure on heavy smog days
  • Adopt a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein
  • Avoid allergens that trigger asthma attacks, such as pet dander, dust, mites, mold and pollen.

If you have recurrent coughing or wheezing that lasts more than a couple of days or any other signs or symptoms of asthma listed above, you should schedule an appointment to see your doctor since treating asthma early can help prevent long-term lung damace and reduce the likelihood of your asthma worsening over time.

If you would like to speak with a respiratory specialist at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, please call 718-206-7001 for an appointment.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.

Treating Asthma When You Have a Cold

Colds make us feel miserable and coughing fits tend to bring attention to us at times when we want it least. For most catching a cold is a nuisance but for others with chronic respiratory conditions such as asthma, colds can be very serious.  Colds are one of the most common causes for flare ups in asthmatics.  The mildest of cold symptoms can easily lead to wheezing, shortness of breath or trigger asthma attacks.

Taking preventative measures to avoid catching a cold is one of the best recommendations that asthmatics can follow. Some of these precautions include: frequently washing or sanitizing hands, staying away from individuals who have colds and avoiding contact to the eyes and nose.

Even though prevention is highly recommended, during the cold season avoiding a cold is sometimes easier said than done. If you do contract the cold virus there are several things you can do to help control your asthma:

  1. If you are sick stay home and take care of yourself. Staying home can help you avoid environmental factors that could worsen your condition.
  2. Monitor your air flow by frequently using a peak flow meter. If there is a drop in peak flow rates contact your physician to discuss adjustments to medication.
  3. Keep track of changes in your condition and developing asthma symptoms such as wheezing, tightness of the chest or coughing.
  4. Take medication as advised by your doctor.

Following these recommendations can help you manage symptoms and reduce the risk of a serious attack.  If your condition continues to get worse after several days, make an appointment to see your doctor as soon as possible.

If you’d like to make an appointment with a doctor at the Jamaica Hospital Medical Center Ambulatory Care Center, call 718-206-7001 to schedule an appointment.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.