The official blog of the Lung Institute.
Knowledge is Power for those Suffering from COPD
Anyone with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) knows that dust in the air can be extremely debilitating. When you’re in the Southwest United States, there is yet another reason to breathe carefully. Coccidioidomycosis, also known as cocci, or valley fever, is a potentially harmful disease that is contracted by breathing in the microscopic spores of a fungus that is carried by dust. The spores then settle in a person’s lungs. According to an article published by The Atlantic, cocci has been around for over 100 years, however doctors are recently seeing more and more cases being reported. Coccidioides grows in the soil of the Southwest and is typically prevalent in the air after rainfall. Once the soil dries, the wind lifts the fungi’s spores into the air with dirt and dust. Unfortunately the spores are microscopic and easy to unknowingly inhale. Because of this, if you live in or are traveling to the Southwest, awareness is the key to prevention.
Prevention is Key for COPD Sufferers
It is important to point out that most people who contract cocci don’t get sick. Thankfully, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 60 percent of those who have inhaled the spores do not show symptoms. Others experience flu-like symptoms, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, rash and/or muscle aches and joint pain. People aged 60 and older are at a higher risk of contracting cocci, however, there are some preventative measures that can be taken to reduce one’s risk:
- Avoid dusty areas like construction or excavation sites.
- Avoid going outside during dust storms and close your windows.
- Filter the air inside of your house.
- Avoid activities where you would work closely with dirt or dust, like yardwork or gardening.
Researchers are still working on a vaccination for cocci. Until then, it is important to take precautions. Be sure to contact your primary physician immediately if you think you have contracted cocci and are experiencing symptoms.
The Southwest is a beautiful place to live and visit, however, it is important to be aware of any risk factors when living with lung disease. Other possible dangers to consider in the Southwest are pollen and air pollution. Being aware of the potential hazards are imperative to living in and visiting the Southwest to ensure that your time there is safe and enjoyable.
The Southwest Can be a Great Place to Live with COPD
There are, however, several benefits to living in the Southwest with COPD, and two Southwest cities made it on our list of Best Places to Live with COPD. St. George, Utah came in fifth place due to the low pollution levels and dry climate. Prescott, Arizona came in second because it is recognized as having the cleanest air in the United States and also has a very mild climate where it never gets too hot or too cold. So, while there are certainly precautions that you need to take while in the Southwest, there are many advantages of living in the area for those with COPD. The key is being aware of potential hazards so that you may best protect yourself and your loved ones.