Latest figures show, according to the National Healthcare Quality Reporting System, that between 2019 and 2021, there were 809 hospital admissions of people from Westmeath due to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD.
Yet, of the estimated 380,000 people living with COPD in Ireland, it is thought that approximately 270,000 of these are unaware that they may have this serious and progressive lung condition.
While perhaps more well-known as bronchitis or emphysema, what is not so well-known about COPD are its symptoms and risk factors. Against this backdrop, and with World COPD Day taking place on Wednesday November 16, COPD Support Ireland is urging the people of Westmeath to get to know the “ABC” of COPD and when they should get checked out:
A is for those Age 35 and over
B is for ongoing Breathlessness
C is for a Cough that won’t go away, with or without phlegm
In summary, if you are over 35 years of age, have ongoing symptoms of breathlessness and a persistent cough, with or without phlegm, then you are encouraged to visit your GP for a simple spirometry breathing test.
While tobacco is the main cause of COPD, other risk factors include exposure to second-hand smoke, inhalation of dusts, chemicals and fumes, living with an existing condition such as chronic asthma, and having a family history of certain lung-related illnesses.
To mark World COPD Day, COPD Support Ireland is launching a series of expert videos on life with COPD. The videos cover topics such as what is COPD, types of treatments, managing breathlessness, using oxygen, coping with flare-ups, making the most of exercise, going abroad, and accessing supports. Other educational resources to support people with COPD, including the COPD & Me information booklet, and the Exercise at Home poster, are also available and can be found at www.copd.ie Winter-ready!
“As we enter the winter season, I really cannot stress enough the importance of everyone getting their ‘flu, pneumonia and COVID vaccines. This will not only help people whether they have COPD or not, but will also help minimise the risk of spreading infection to others. There were many new routines adopted in response to the pandemic and, if you have been diagnosed with COPD, or have lung health problems, it really does make sense to continue to avoid overly-crowded places at this time of year, and to wash your hands or use hand sanitiser regularly when out and about.
“If you or a loved one has a persistent cough, shortness of breath or recurring chest infections, I’d urge you not to delay but contact your GP or call the COPD AdviceLine on Freefone 1800 832146 where you can make an appointment to speak to a COPD specialist nurse or physiotherapist,” Joan Johnston, General Manager, COPD Support Ireland, stated.
For full details of the national network of 33 COPD support groups under the COPD Support Ireland umbrella across the country, and the exercise and education programmes on offer, visit www.copd.ie