Learn the Risk Factors for Pulmonary Patients Smoking - Cigarette smoke irritates the lining of the airways and contains nicotine, tar, and many other substances that produce irritation. This irritation causes more mucus and more damage to lung parenchyma. Avoid second-hand smoke, as well. Emotional Stress - Aggravation or excitement may contribute to rapid, shallow breathing and even bronchospasm. All of this leads to worsening shortness of breath. It’s easier to control your emotions and cope with your problems if you get enough sleep and rest and avoid getting fatigued. Overweight - The more excess body weight you have, the more energy (oxygen) is required for you to do things. Excess weight puts pressure on the diaphragm and makes it harder for you to expand your lungs. Overeating at one sitting will contribute to shortness of breath too, decreasing even more the ability of the lungs to get a full breath. Temperature/Humidity - Avoid extremes of heat and cold. We suggest putting a scarf or handkerchief over your mouth and nose to warm up cold air when you have to go outside. High humidity makes breathing more difficult, and lack of humidity (dry air) can irritate the airways in your lungs. Use a humidifier or an air conditioner inside your home to keep the air at proper humidity. Be sure to change the standing water in humidifiers and the filters in air conditioners as recommended by the manufacturer. High Altitudes - Oxygen in the air you breathe is less at high altitudes. This, of course, can make you more short of breath. Speak to your physician before you fly, or travel to a high altitude area. Air Pollution - Chemicals, dust, and such that you breathe in, can irritate the airways. Listen to the news to find daily pollen counts, or check the newspapers to see what the air quality is each day. Go to the Internet and visit Weather.com for Atlanta’s latest pollen count. Stay inside if you can, when air quality is poor. You can wear a handkerchief, scarf, or disposable surgical mask over the mouth and nose to give you some protection when you vacuum, dust, do yard work, must be exposed to fumes, or pump your own gas. Colds and the flu – Do not be around people who have a cold or the flu. Avoid crowds, during cold and flu season. You can protect yourself by wearing a disposable surgical mask, washing hands frequently and avoid touching your face with your fingers. To maintain optimal resistance, stay as healthy as you can by exercising, eating a healthy diet, and getting enough rest. Be sure to take the flu and pneumonia vaccines as recommended by your physician.