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If you have chronic lung disease, you can still enjoy backyard parties, fireworks and barbecues with family and friends this Fourth of July. With a little preparation, you can decrease your risk of flare-ups during the festivities. 

Several Fourth of July activities are triggers that could exacerbate shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing or asthma attacks: 

  • Smoke from charcoal grills
  • Smoke and chemicals from fireworks
  • Outdoor allergens
  • Foods high in sodium and carbohydrates
  • Hot, humid summer weather 

Here, we offer some tips on how to make the most of the holiday this year:

During the Party

If you are attending a Fourth of July party, always bring your medications and rescue inhaler with you. Don’t overexert yourself — know when you need to sit down and rest for a few minutes. Drink plenty of fluids, especially if the party is outside. During summer, high temperatures and humidity force the body to work even harder than usual to breathe. This can lead to breathlessness in people with lung disease whose lungs are already working overtime. 

During Dinner

Steer clear of traditional Fourth of July foods like processed hot dogs, sodium-rich chips and sugar-laden barbecue sauces that can lead to fluid retention and lung inflammation. If you choose a burger, opt for pasture-raised beef. Or ask the chef to throw some chicken or healthy veggies on the grill instead. Practice portion control and try not to overeat, because a full stomach puts more pressure on the chest and can lead to breathlessness.   

Worried about navigating the dinner selection? At Lung Health Institute, we offer personalized wellness plans through our Anti-Inflammatory Initiative™ (AI²™). These plans include tons of healthy recipes you can make that taste much better than processed hot dogs. 

During the Fireworks Show

For people with chronic lung disease, fireworks are one of the biggest health hazards during Fourth of July. Fireworks release a type of air pollution called particulate matter pollution. These particulates include ash, smoke, soot, dust and toxic metals, all of which are small enough to penetrate the lungs. 

A 2015 study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found that the level of particulate matter pollution in the air increased by 42% on the Fourth of July during fireworks displays. The worst pollution was present from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m., and pollution levels returned to normal by mid-day on July 5. 

If you don’t want to miss the show outside, sit or stand upwind from fireworks and watch from a distance. Afterward, shower and wash your clothes to remove any lingering smoke or ash. 

If you are worried about fireworks causing a flare-up, don’t risk being outside during peak fireworks display hours. There may even be a nearby display you can view safely from inside your home, with the windows closed. Or you can opt to watch a fireworks show on television.

Here at Lung Health Institute, we wish you a safe, healthy and happy Fourth of July. 

After the festivities have ended, if you are ready to begin discussing treatment options for chronic lung conditions, contact one of our patient coordinators for more information. 

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