World COPD Day

Today is World COPD Day, a day intended to bring awareness to one of the most common lung disease.  COPD stands for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, and smoking is the leading cause.  It is not a single disease, but a term used to describe chronic lung diseases that limit your airflow.  The two main forms of COPD are chronic bronchitis and emphysema.  Most people with the disease have a combination of both conditions.  What you have may not just be a “smoker’s cough.”

diagram of bronchitisChronic bronchitis is an inflammation of the airways that causes coughing along with mucus production.  According to the website, it is considered chronic if you “cough and produce excess mucus most days for three months in a year, two years in a row.”

Emphysema is a disease “that damages the air sacs and/or the smallest breathing tubes in diagram of emphysemathe lungs.” When you breathe in, air travels through the trachea, or windpipe, before splitting into two bronchial tubes, or bronchi, into the lungs.  These bronchi branch into thousands of smaller, thinner tubes called bronchioles.  These tubes end in bunches of tiny, round air sacs called alveoli.  Each of the sacs is surrounded by tiny blood vessels called capillaries.

When you take a breath, two things happen.  Oxygen moves into the lungs and into the blood stream through the capillaries and is sent throughout the body.  The blood that has already circulated in the body now contains carbon dioxide, and this gas moves from the capillaries into the air sacs and exits the body when you breathe out.

How smoking damages lungsIf you are a smoker, the smoke and chemicals you breathe in damages the walls of the air sacs and destroy them.  As emphysema develops, air becomes trapped in the damaged sacs, unable to move oxygen from the lungs to the blood.  It becomes more difficult to breathe, and your body becomes more oxygen deprived because the air sacs can’t deliver oxygen to the blood stream.

COPD develops gradually over time, so you may not even know you are sick.  Symptoms include a cough, fatigue, many respiratory infections, shortness of breathe that gets worse with mild activity, trouble catching your breath, and wheezing.   COPD is a long-term, chronic, disease.  There is no cure for COPD, but there are medications that may help the symptoms and keep it from getting worse. The best prevention against the disease is to not smoke.

When young people start smoking, they don’t think of the consequences, or the progressive harm it does to the body.  Many times they think there will be cures in the future for any diseases smoking may cause.  Understanding the health consequences and learning refusal skills is what the Florida Statewide Tobacco Prevention and Intervention Teacher Training Course teaches you so you can help make an impact on the lives of your students.  This free, online course is available 24/7, and may provide up to 60 teacher in-service credits towards your recertification.  You must have a current Florida DOE to register.  Check us out at

Check out the COPD site to learn more.
Pictures and information from U.S. National Library of Medicine

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