How can I Raise Awareness for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease?

November is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Awareness month. There are over 30 million Americans living with COPD. COPD is an umbrella term for many different lung diseases, including emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and irreversible asthma. This month, it is crucial to review the effects of COPD and raise awareness. Some important facts about COPD include:

  • COPD is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States.
  • It is a costly disease, costing the United States over $50 billion each year.
  • COPD kills more woman than men every year.
  • Teenagers who smoke are extremely vulnerable to developing the disease.
  • Someone dies from COPD every four minutes in the United States.

What are the Symptoms of COPD?

Symptoms of COPD include the following:

  • Frequent coughing or wheezing
  • Excess phlegm
  • Chest tightness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Lack of energy
  • Swelling of ankles and feet
  • Trouble taking a deep breath

People with COPD are likely to experience exacerbations, which are episodes where symptoms become worse than their usual day-to-day signs.

What Causes COPD?

There are three main causes of COPD. The most common cause is smoking. Most COPD sufferers smoke currently or smoked in the past, which ultimately causes this disease to develop. Another cause of COPD is long-term exposure to workplace pollutants, such as toxic chemicals, dust, or fumes. If a worker is exposed to environmental pollutants, they are at risk for COPD if they are genetically predisposed to it. 

Secondary smoke can also cause someone to develop COPD. There have been many cases where children developed COPD due to residing in the same house as smokers. Vaping and e-cigarettes can also cause this disease. Emphysema and chronic bronchitis are also conditions that can lead to COPD. Chronic bronchitis is an inflammation of the lining of the bronchial tubes and is characterized by daily cough and mucus production. Emphysema is a condition where the end of the air passages get destroyed because of exposure to cigarette smoke and other toxic fumes.

Which Workers are at Risk for Developing COPD?

Long-term exposure to certain substances in the workplace can lead to a greater risk of developing COPD. Although smoking is the leading cause of COPD, there are many factors, especially in the workplace, that put workers at risk. Dust, chemical fumes, and air pollution that an employee breathes in on a regular basis at work makes them vulnerable to COPD. Workplace air pollution is not unusual. Around 30 percent of people with COPD develop the condition due to workplace air quality. In certain occupations, there is an increased risk in lung irritation and damage. Occupations with the highest risk of developing COPD include:

  • Coal miners
  • Cotton fiber workers
  • Hard rock miners
  • Tunnel workers
  • Concrete manufacturers
  • Industrial workers

How can I Reduce My Risk?

There are a certain steps one can take to reduce their risk for developing COPD:

Do Not Smoke: Smoke inhalation irritates the lungs and makes them more susceptible to COPD. Do not smoke and avoid second-hand smoke as much as possible. If one is exposed to toxic chemicals at work, smoking will only increase their risk of developing the disease.

Limit Dust Exposure: Try and learn specific work habits to limit one’s exposure to dust and other chemicals. Allow dust to settle before handling bags of coal and use high-quality bags to transport materials. Avoid working around open containers to help prevent dust inhalation.

Avoid Sweeping: Vacuum or mop when cleaning instead of sweeping to lower the amount of dust in the air. If possible, use industrial vacuums to clean and wear a respirator mask while doing so.

Keep Clothing Clean: Regularly cleaning clothes will limit the amount of dust that is attached. In the winter months, heavy jackets absorb dust and become a main source of dust exposure.

Get a Yearly Breathing Test: If one works in a high-risk workplace, a health program may offer a breathing test. This test may also be available at a doctor’s office.

How is COPD Treated?

It is necessary to receive treatment for COPD to help improve one’s quality of life. Treatments include the following:

  • Quit smoking
  • Avoid tobacco smoke and other air pollutants
  • Medications that can treat coughing and wheezing
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation; this is a personalized treatment program that teaches one how to manage their COPD symptoms to help improve their quality of life. A personalized plan may include how to breathe better, how to conserve energy, and how to eat healthier.
  • Avoid lung infections by getting certain vaccines for the flu and pneumonia.
  • Receive oxygen from a portable oxygen tank.

Possible Complications

COPD has the potential to cause different complications, including:

  • Respiratory Infections: People living with COPD are more likely to catch a cold, the flu, and pneumonia. Respiratory infections can make breathing very difficult and can cause further damage to the lungs.
  • Heart Problems: COPD can increase the risk of a heart attack.
  • High Blood Pressure: COPD may cause higher blood pressure in the arteries that bring blood to the lungs.
  • Depression: Depression is often a side effect and complication of COPD. When a victim has difficulty breathing, they are limited to activities, which can lead to depression.

Can I Receive Workers’ Compensation for COPD?

If a worker develops COPD because of their employment, they may be eligible for Workers’ Compensation. They will have to prove that they were exposed to a hazardous chemical or substance on the job that caused COPD to develop. It is important to hire a skilled lawyer to help because COPD lawsuits can be complicated. A lawyer will research one’s case and explore all options. Insurance companies often deny this type of compensation, and it can be challenging to obtain benefits without a lawyer.

How can I Participate in COPD Awareness Month?

During COPD Awareness Month, there are many resources available to find out more information regarding this disease, including online forums. Orange is the national symbol for COPD, and by wearing this color, one is showing support for those who have the disease and for those who passed away from it. There are many ways to participate in COPD Awareness Month and to learn more about this disease, such as:

  • Online Chats: Chatting is a great way to learn about COPD. There are many chats available to discuss how to manage COPD and for any events to participate in during COPD Awareness Month.
  • Wear Orange: Orange is the official color of COPD Awareness Month and can be worn to show support. When someone asks why one is wearing an orange ribbon or clothing, they can inform them about COPD and the dangers involved in the disease.
  • See a Doctor: If one has any symptoms of COPD, such as wheezing, tightness in the chest, or extreme fatigue, they should see a doctor right away. A doctor can let their patient know in a few short tests if they have COPD and how to manage the disease.

If a worker learns they have COPD because of workplace exposure, a Workers’ Compensation lawyercan assist them with their case and make certain that their client receives all necessary benefits to help them with recovery.

Bucks County Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Freedman & Lorry, P.C. Advocate for Employees with Work-Related COPD

If you developed COPD from workplace pollutants, contact our Bucks County Workers’ Compensation lawyers at Freedman & Lorry, P.C. for help with your case. Our dedicated team of lawyers fight for the rights of injured and sick workers. Call us at 888-999-1962 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and Pinehurst, North Carolina, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania.