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World Lung Day

Image of Bobbie Byrd
Bobbie Byrd

The basic function of our lungs is fairly simple: take in oxygen from the air and release it into the bloodstream. During a normal day, the average person breathes nearly 25,000 times, but for those suffering with lung disease, drawing those breaths can be difficult. Unfortunately, lung conditions are a common problem, so much so that the World Health Organization estimates seven percent of all deaths worldwide are due to chronic respiratory issues. That's why raising awareness of the prevalence of pulmonology helps people understand how to prevent these diseases and live healthier lives.

World Lung Day

The idea behind World Lung Day (WLD) first came into fruition at the Kyoto Assembly meeting of the Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS) in 2016. From those beginnings, WLD emerged as a worldwide collaborative effort to increase awareness of different types of lung disease, promote education on preventing chronic conditions as well as improve lung health initiatives for COPD, Asthma, Sleep Apnea and more!

On the first World Lung Day, September 25, 2017, FIRS merely called for public support, but today, it represents a global advocacy campaign aimed to inspire the world's policy makers, healthcare providers, civil societies and even patients to become proactively invested in improving respiratory health. 


In late 2019, a new respiratory illness emerged in Wuhan, China and has subsequently spread around the globe. This novel human coronavirus disease, known as COVID-19, has become the fifth documented pandemic since the Spanish influenza of 1918 and it remains a highly contagious virus that spreads rapidly.

As of September 5, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report 220,360,991 confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide, with 4,562,885 deaths globally. Because the effects vary from individual to individual, it can be difficult to pin down, but here are the main signs and symptoms, broken down by severity:

Most Frequent Symptoms

  • Coarse, dry cough
  • Fever (bodily temperature over 100.4° F or 38° C)
  • Tiredness and diminished energy

Less Frequent Symptoms

  • Sore throat
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Aches and pains (flu-like symptoms)
  • Loss of taste and/or smell
  • Conjunctivitis (pink eye)
  • Discoloration of the fingers or toes

Serious Symptoms

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Chest pressure or pain

If you experience serious symptoms, seek immediate medical attention. Keep in mind that it may take five to fourteen days after exposure for the first symptoms to manifest.

Prevention Of COVID-19

COVID-19 spreads most easily between people in close contact with each other. To slow transmission and prevent infection, the CDC recommends the following:

  • Regularly wash your hands or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Wear a mask in public and maintain a six feet distance from others
  • Avoid touching your face, but cover the mouth and nose if sneezing or coughing
  • Avoid activities that weaken the lungs, such as smoking
  • Avoid unnecessary travel or gatherings and if you're unwell, stay home

The Hazards Of Vaping

Vaping or using e-cigarettes may sound and look cool, but it is not good for your lungs. When you vape, you're heating a substance and internalizing the resulting fumes, which results in foreign toxins throughout the lungs. While many of the chemicals in vaping liquids are safe when taken orally or as an ingredient in skin products, they can be dangerous (even fatal) when inhaled repetitively.  

There are several specific lung diseases directly associated with vaping:

  • "Popcorn lung." The technical name for this disease is bronchiolitis obliterans (BO). It causes permanent scars in the smallest branches of the airways, making breathing very difficult, if not impossible. 
  • Lipoid Pneumonia. This results from inhaling oily substances like the ones used in e-liquid. 
  • Collapsed lung. This occurs when air blisters on the lung's surface burst. When this happens, the lung deflates like a balloon. Vaping increases the risk of these blisters bursting.

Quitting Is The Only Option

Just like quitting cigarettes is hard, so is breaking the vaping habit. But you can do it by taking one step at a time

  • Elicit support from family and friends
  • Have a talk with yourself to understand why you want to and need to quit vaping
  • Pick a time when you're not under a lot of extra stress
  • Stock up on gum, hard candies, toothpicks, etc. 
  • Research going "cold turkey" vs. gradually quitting and decide which is best for you
  • Identify your main triggers, such as boredom or loneliness, then develop a strategy for dealing with these stressors as well as learn how to cope with cravings

If your first attempt at quitting isn't successful, don't despair. Here are some resources and support groups you can look into. 

Your World Lung Day Contribution

What will you do on September 25, 2021, to help increase awareness of the importance of a healthy set of lungs? Here are a few ideas:

  • Contact your nearby health department to check for any activities planned in the community or support local efforts to promote the COVID-19 vaccine. 
  • Learn about how to support pulmonology practices or volunteer to help spread WLD awareness.
  • Know someone who vapes? Talk to them about quitting and encourage them to seek help.

If you're active on social media, you can help raise awareness by sharing stories and using the hashtag #WorldLungDay on your posts. Check out the FIRS World Lung Day toolkit for ideas, graphics, logos and even a Facebook profile image that you can use to spread the word. Get involved; that's the key to everyone breathing better.

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