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Lung Disease & Respiratory Health Center

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Respiratory Problems, Age 12 and Older - Prevention

There is no sure way to prevent respiratory illnesses. To help reduce your risk:

  • Wash your hands often, especially when you are around people with colds.
  • Keep your hands away from your nose, eyes, and mouth. These are the places where viruses are most likely to enter your body.
  • Do not smoke or use other tobacco products. Smoking irritates the mucous membranes of the nose, sinuses, and lungs, which may make them more susceptible to infections. For more information, see the topic Quitting Smoking.
  • If you live in an area that has problems with air pollution or smoke from wildfires:
    • Stay indoors and avoid breathing in smoke, ashes, or polluted air.
    • Do not exercise outdoors if you smell smoke or notice irritation of your eyes, nose, or throat.
    • Keep your motor vehicle windows rolled up and the vents closed when driving.
  • Avoid cleanup activities, such as raking leaves or cutting brush.
  • Avoid exposure to chemicals. Do not spray or apply chemicals unless you are wearing protective clothing, such as a particle-filtering respirator, safety goggles, and gloves.
  • Exercise regularly. For more information, see the topic Fitness: Getting and Staying Active.
  • Get a flu shot (influenza vaccine) each year. For more information, see the topic Influenza (Seasonal Flu).
  • Get a pneumococcal shot if you have chronic lung disease, such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD); if you smoke; or if you have a health risk that increases the seriousness of your symptoms. If you are age 65 or older, it is recommended you get two different types of pneumococcal vaccines.
  • Make sure your immunizations are current, such as pertussis to reduce your risk of getting whooping cough. For more information, see the topic Immunizations.
  • For information on preventing allergies or asthma, see the topic Allergic Rhinitis or Asthma in Teens and Adults.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: June 04, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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