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Chronic Obstructive Airway Disease

Shortness of breath

Mild shortness of breath is common in elderly, especially after performing exercise. Although this may be due to deterioration in lung function, it could also be the symptom of serious disease, such as chronic bronchitis, emphysema, heart failure, renal failure and severe anemia. Therefore, if the shortness of breath is persistent or suddenly worsens, the elderly should seek medical advice.

Causes of shortness of breath

Chronic bronchitis and emphysema (also known as chronic obstructive airway disease or COAD) is the commonest cause of shortness of breath in the elderly, especially those with history of smoking or passive smoking. Usual symptoms include frequent cough, sputum and wheezing. Patients with mild disease experience shortness of breath during moderate exercise such as walking upstairs, but those with more severe disease will develop shortness of breath even when they walk on level ground or at rest. Some may need to depend on oxygen therapy.

Prevention and treatment of COAD

The most important is quit smoking. The more you smoke, the more harm you do to the lungs. So all COAD patients should quit smoking immediately to help slow down the progression of the disease. Patients should follow treatment as advised by the doctor to control the symptoms.

The elderly should avoid going to polluted places. While at home, maintain good ventilation. When burning incense, make sure the windows are open.

Influenza vaccination

Influenza vaccination can reduce the complications due to influenza virus infection, especially for patients with COAD or heart diseases. Consult a doctor for advice and the vaccination. Currently, the Department of Health provides influenza vaccination for all residents of aged homes.