Your lungs are amazing working parts of your body. They allow you to breathe in and out, and perform the very important option of making sure that oxygen gets pumped throughout your body. As you breathe in, they fill with air. The tissue that makes up the lungs is thin and full of small blood vessels and capillaries. These absorb the oxygen you breathe in into the blood stream and then the blood carries it all over the body, allowing the other organs to function properly. However, the lungs are not the only part of the respiratory system. Your mouth, nose, and throat (windpipe) are also included. And to a certain extent, your eyes and ears, as these are connected to the throat. When you have a respiratory problem, your eyes and ears are usually affected as well as your lungs and throat.
Many respiratory problems are the result of temporary problems. This can be a cold, or even some forms of the flu. Such infections are caused by bacteria or viruses, and they usually need to be combated by medications. We call these viruses and bacteria “germs,” and they can be caught from other infected people. Sometimes you have to touch the person directly, and other times all you need to do is breathe in the air that has germs in it. In any cases, it can cause very unpleasant symptoms, including fever, sweats, chills, and inflammation. Plenty of rest and fluids are needed, in addition to prescribed medications, to cure such respiratory problems.
Other respiratory problems are of a more permanent nature. Asthma is one of the most common respiratory problems. This usually shows up in youth, and affects the way that you breathe. Strenuous activity can cause the airway to close, making it difficult to breathe. Most people who have asthma have inhalers that distribute steroids, or they take them orally. This helps the airway open back up so that the person with asthma can breathe more easily. Many people learn to control their asthma well enough to play sports. One of the Olympic gold medallists in swimming is asthmatic.
Other respiratory problems are the results of carcinogens getting into the lungs. One of the emerging problems of this nature involves asbestos. This type of poisoning ruins the lungs and makes them inoperable. People who worked with buildings back in the 50s and 60s are just now finding out that this dormant carcinogen is awakening to wreak havoc with their lungs. Another carcinogen caused disease is emphysema. While this disease does exist without smoking, most people who develop it either smoked at one point, or were around smoke, especially cigarette smoke, a great deal.
Now we are finding out that air pollution can aggravate any of the above respiratory problems. What we have done to our air, especially in the more polluted cities, is actually causing higher instances of asthma and could possibly contribute to increased rates of emphysema in non-smokers. It is important to be careful when it comes to going outside in air pollution.
To learn more about your lungs, and other respiratory facts and advice visit The Respiratory Organization