Like many medical professionals, I played many roles in my formative years that led me into my vocational roles. When environmental allergies showed up in my system as “reactive airways,” I started living with the breathlessness and distress I had previously only witnessed during my dad’s years in and out of ICUs with COPD. I made it my work to learn deeply about primary and secondary prevention of reactive airway disease with the use of behavior and life practices. I’ve needed no meds and can hike small mountains with ease.
Protection from a community-acquired super-bug that viciously attacks vulnerable lungs is a lesson we’re all trying to make sense of right now. Here, I share with you a few things I learned in April:
- The CDC website and YouTube channel are the places to visit when it comes to protection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been the vast and invisible army tracking, teaching and protecting us. You can find a lot of interesting reading when digging deep into the world of viruses and the history and heroes of public health.
- Masks matter. Physical distancing matters. Handwashing matters. Sound bites do not cover the complexities in the who, how, what, when and why of each of these three strategies. The rationale is different relative to the context. However, one universal is that reducing the frequency of particles one is exposed to really matters. SARS-CoV-2 is potent enemy. I now wear a mask when raking and stirring up things my lungs would have to wrestle with.
- The best supports of your immune system are not found in a bottle, but maybe a box, i.e. a Zoom room or YouTube video. The folks who study the science of sleep, nutrition, movement and love have taught us that life activities keep our immune systems in top form. Determine what nourishes and moves you and your lungs. Qigong, dance, singing, upper-body side stretches and breathwork are things I do for lung health. “Sitting is the new smoking,” while not 100% accurate, is a message that motivates me. Songs also inspire me to sing and do happy things. I work my inner and outer lung muscles by walking in the forest or on the wide roads with a buddy, during the hours when others are still indoors.
- Developing body literacy on lung function. As allergy season arrives, the CDC site will help you differentiate the levels of symptoms. Call your provider early to get treatment before lesser symptoms flare up. Hospitals have hotlines to help you sort out best next steps on breathing matters. I have used climbing a flight of stairs as my barometer for how I am doing day to day. I suggest two sources of inspiration for my patients: for excellent educational articles, https://avivaromm.com/category/covid-19/; and, for the art of war, Sun Tzu, who said, “If you know your enemy and know yourself, you will not fear the results of a hundred battles.”