crushed cigarette
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Don't Smoke

Tobacco smoke can narrow and inflame your airway and make it harder to breathe. It could irritate your lungs and give you a nagging cough. Over time, the smoke destroys tissue. Smoking is the No. 1 cause of lung cancer and the main cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a condition that damages the tiny air sacs in your lungs that process oxygen. 

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home radon testing kit
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Test Your Home for Radon

Natural uranium in rock, soil, and water breaks down to make radon gas. You can't smell, touch, or see it, but it's the No. 2 cause of lung cancer. It gets into buildings through cracks and holes in floors and walls, and around plumbing and electrical wire. The radioactive particles damage your lungs when you breathe them in or swallow them. A simple test kit can tell you if you have high levels in your home.

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vacuuming carpet
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Clean Your Carpets

It's a good idea to vacuum your carpets three times a week and steam clean them every year. That's because they can trap mold, cockroach droppings, dust mites, dirt, and dust that get into the air and into your lungs. Even the chemicals used to make and install carpet could cause lung problems. If that's too much vacuuming for you, consider hard-surface flooring, like tile or wood, that's easier to keep clean.

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young man jogging
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Stay Active

You might already know that exercise helps keep your heart healthy, but it's also good for your lungs. It can even improve the symptoms of some long-term lung conditions. If the gym's not your thing, a walk, jog, or regular tennis game can do the trick. Shoot for about 30 minutes, five times a week. Just make sure to talk to your doctor about your exercise plan if you already have breathing problems. 

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gas stove burner close up
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Check Your Appliances

Wherever gas burns, as in certain cooktops, ovens, and space heaters, it makes a chemical called nitrous oxide. This gas can inflame your lungs, make you cough and wheeze, and trigger asthma. You also make it when you burn wood, oil, coal, or kerosene. Make sure your appliances are installed the right way. Do regular maintenance, and pay special attention to how they send waste gases out of the house.

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cockroach close up
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Keep Cockroaches Away

Their poop and bits of their bodies turn to dust on your floors, sheets, blankets, and furniture. When it gets stirred up into the air, it can trigger allergies and other lung problems. Kids who are in contact with this dust at an early age may be more likely to get asthma. Pest control can help. And try to keep your house as clean and dry as possible, especially fabrics and carpet.

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room humidifier
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Clean Your Humidifier

It's just a simple device that puts moisture into the air to help you breathe easier, right? Well, yes. But if you don't clean it, it could develop an airborne fungus that can infect and inflame your lungs. That's why it's important to change filters and do regular maintenance on your humidifier and your air heating and cooling systems, too.

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man drinking water
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Drink Plenty of Water

There is a thin lining of mucus inside your lungs. When you get enough water over the course of the day, this lining stays thin, which helps your lungs do their job better. Staying well hydrated is especially important if you have COPD because it makes it easier to cough up the mucus in your lungs that can cause discomfort and breathing problems. 

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deep breathing exercise
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Do Breathing Exercises

Out with the old -- air, that is -- and in with the new. That's the basis of breathing exercises designed to help people with lung diseases like asthma and COPD, which can trap stale air and sap the natural springiness of your lungs. "Pursed lip breathing" tries to slow your breaths, and "belly breathing" aims to deepen them, both in and out. Trained experts called pulmonary rehabilitation specialists can help you do them correctly. 

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washing hands
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Wash Your Hands

An airway infection, like a cold, can get into your lungs and cause serious health problems. You can help protect yourself and keep germs away if you wash your hands often with soap and water. Also brush your teeth twice a day, and go to your dentist at least twice a year. Make sure you get the flu vaccine every year. Stay away from school or work when you're sick so that you don't infect others.

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mother and daughter watching factory smoke
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Check Your Air Quality

The Air Quality Index (AQI) tracks pollution that may come from factories, fires, cars, dust, pollen, and other sources on a scale from 0 to 500. Get local levels on the news or check online. Dirty air could affect anyone, but high levels are especially serious for children, adults over 65, and people who are ill. When levels are really high, it's often safer to stay indoors as much as possible.

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group of women laughing
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Laugh More

It's a great workout for your stomach muscles and helps increase the amount of air your lungs can take in. Much like sports, jogging, or breathing exercises, a good laugh clears out stale air to make room for fresh air that can reach more parts of your lungs. 

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doctor listening with stethoscope
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Get Regular Checkups

They're a good way to spot illnesses before they get out of hand. This may be especially important for lung diseases, which might not cause obvious symptoms until they are already far along. Tell your doctor about any changes you notice in the way you breathe. They'll listen to your lungs and might do tests that can help figure out what's going on. 

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 12/17/2020 Reviewed by Minesh Khatri, MD on December 17, 2020


1) sercansamanci / Thinkstock

2) Blair Seitz / Science Source

3) Zmaj88 / Thinkstock

4) jacoblund / Thinkstock

5) kvkirillov / Thinkstock

6) Wi6995 / Thinkstock

7) Qwart / Thinkstock

8) Jupiterimages / Thinkstock

9) WebMD

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American Lung Association: "Healthy Air: Cockroaches," "Breathing Exercises," "Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis Symptoms, Causes and Risk Factors," "Healthy Air: Nitrogen Dioxide," "Healthy Air: Air Quality Index," "Healthy Air: Carpets." "Tips to Keep Your Lungs Healthy."

Breathe: "Your Lungs and Exercise."

CDC: "Smoking and COPD." "Staying Hydrated."

EPA: "Nitrogen Dioxide's Impact on Indoor Air Quality."

Mayo Clinic: "Lung cancer."

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: "Pulmonary Function Tests."

National Safety Council: "Test Your Home for Radon Gas Exposure."

Rush University Medical Center: "8 Tips for Healthy Lungs."

WHO Guidelines for Indoor Air Quality: Selected Pollutants: "Nitrogen Dioxide."

Reviewed by Minesh Khatri, MD on December 17, 2020

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.