What you need to know to breathe easier
The Ohio Valley is known for colorful foliage, beautiful spring blooms and hazy, hot summers.
It’s also known to induce respiratory issues not-so-affectionately known as the “Ohio Valley crud.”
This condition causes allergy symptoms that include wheezing, coughing and troubled breathing. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America even named Louisville the No. 2 “allergy capital” in the nation in 2015.
“The area is known as the Ohio Valley because the Ohio River has hills on either side from Floyds Knobs to Fort Knox,” said Brian Goode, meteorologist with WAVE 3 News. “While they are not significant hills, they are just enough to prevent much wind from stirring near the surface, trapping air. This air fills with pollution and pollens, becoming stagnant.”
For those who have asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a progressive disease that makes it hard to breathe, living in the Ohio Valley can be downright challenging.
Though cold fronts move the air out, more comes in behind it and begins the same cycle. This repetitive change in air quality can cause COPD symptoms to worsen. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, living in the Ohio Valley for an extended amount of time can heighten COPD and cause numerous health issues for those who have it.
“Short of moving, there’s not much you can do to change the air we breathe,” said Mike Williams, respiratory therapist with Norton Audubon Hospital. “But we can develop strategies for coping with the impact of COPD.” Williams suggests individuals with COPD or other respiratory issues take precautionary measures such as:
• Being aware of air quality alerts and staying indoors or limiting time outside when air quality is low
• Frequently changing air filters in your home . and keeping windows shut
• Learning new breathing techniques, such as diaphragmatic breathing: Breathe in deeply through the nose while pushing your stomach out to use the diaphragm and lower respiratory muscles. Breathe out slowly through pursed lips.
• Taking your respiratory medication as prescribed; missing doses can make them less effective. Also, be sure your doctor knows about any over-the-counter medications you are using to help you breathe.
“It is also important to get moving,” Williams said. “Taking deep breaths, which will fill your lungs, allows areas that don’t normally get used the opportunity to open back up and improve your breathing ability.”