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Lung issues of concern as winter approaches

Delaware Public Media

High ozone levels which cause respiratory issues in the summer months are not a big problem in winter, but that that does not mean everyone can breathe easy this time of year.

Al Rizzo, a pulmonologist with Christiana Care Health System, said winter air can still aggravate lung problems for children, the elderly and Delawareans who have lung conditions like asthma or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) - a lung disease that blocks the airways.

"The winter months have the cold air and the wind which can act as a trigger," Rizzo said, "and certainly patients who already have a condition like asthma or COPD are more prone to have a spasm or bronchospasm, a cough, wheezing, some tightness in their chest…"

That is why Delawareans with respiratory issues need to be mindful of when the forecast calls for frigid temps or gusty winds, Rizzo said.


"Try to use your common sense about not going out if you don't have to," he said.


The cold air and wind could even stir problems in people who don't already have lung issues, so Rizzo said knowing the symptoms like increased coughs and heavy breathing could help Delawareans be more astute about their lung health this winter.


"If they start noticing symptoms that seem different and are lingering for more than a day or two - increased cough, increased mucus - especially if it starts to change color, and they’re getting more short of breath, that should prompt a call to their physician," Rizzo said.


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