By Dr. Williams Cullinane, Jr.

More than ever, it’s important to become familiar with your respiratory health and common symptoms that can indicate larger issues. The COVID-19 health crisis has created a greater need to actively monitor the health of your lungs, and meeting with a pulmonologist can help identify potential issues or alleviate concerns. 

A pulmonologist is a doctor who diagnoses and treats diseases of the respiratory system, the lungs, and other organs that help you breathe. The most common lung diseases include asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and lung cancer. Early signs and symptoms of asthma include shortness of breath, dry cough, wheezing, and chest tightness. COPD early signs can range from shortness of breath to coughing up sputum (associated with tobacco smoking) and wheezing. Lung cancer often is asymptomatic, but when symptoms occur, those can include chronic cough, changes in voice, and coughing up blood. Unfortunately, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in both men and women. 

Some of these symptoms will overlap with signs of COVID-19, including shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, and cough. However, if you have contracted the COVID-19 virus, you likely also will experience fever, muscle or body aches, headache, loss of taste or smell, congestion or a runny nose, and a sore throat. 

If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends self-quarantining and monitoring your symptoms for seven to 14 days post-exposure. Additionally, we recommend getting plenty of rest, staying hydrated, washing your hands often, avoiding sharing household items, and cleaning all “high-touch” surfaces daily. Please seek medical attention if you have trouble breathing or your face or lips become blue in color, and also if you have pain or pressure in your chest, experience confusion, or have any other concerning symptoms. 

Improving your lung health can be achieved with some lifestyle changes and commitment to your overall wellbeing. Stop smoking. Avoid secondhand smoke and environmental irritants. Get flu, pneumonia, and COVID-19 vaccinations. Exercise more frequently to promote healthy lung function, and improve your indoor air quality by using air filters and reducing pollutants like artificial fragrances, mold, and dust. 

By meeting with a pulmonologist regularly, actively monitoring your respiratory health, and adopting healthy lifestyle changes, you can take control of your overall wellbeing. 

Dr. William Cullinane Jr. is a doctor of osteopathic medicine specializing in pulmonology and critical care medicine. Visit or call 228-575-1775 to learn more 

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