Islanders reminded to remember pandemic practices to help protect COPD patients

There are around 8,000 Islanders living with COPD, according to Health P.E.I. (Shutterstock - image credit)
There are around 8,000 Islanders living with COPD, according to Health P.E.I. (Shutterstock - image credit)

While COVID-19 may be less of a public health concern these days, a group that advocates for those with lung disease hopes Islanders continue to practice the lessons learned during the pandemic to help protect those with high-risk conditions.

LungNSPEI and Health P.E.I. recently hosted over 100 health-care providers for an education session about improving care for the roughly 8,000 Islanders living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD.

Julia Hartley, director of operations for LungNSPEI. said preventative measures like washing hands and staying away from others when you're sick are important because COPD patients are at higher risk of flare-ups.

"It's really important for [patients] to be social, but maybe when you are visiting those folks just be a little bit extra careful," Hartley said.

'These machines actually keep the airways open for these individuals that suffer from sleep apnea,' says Julia Hartley, association coordinator for the P.E.I. Lung Association.
'These machines actually keep the airways open for these individuals that suffer from sleep apnea,' says Julia Hartley, association coordinator for the P.E.I. Lung Association.

Julia Hartley, director of operations for LungNSPEI, says it's important for Islanders to get tested for COPD if they notice the warning signs. (CBC)

COPD comes in two forms: emphysema and chronic bronchitis. It's the second-leading cause of hospitalization in the province after childbirth, according to Health P.E.I.

Smokers or former smokers are particularly at risk, especially after the age of 40.

Hartley said the Island compares well to other provinces when it comes to access to programs like pulmonary rehabilitation.

But the waitlists for those programs can be long, and the lung association would like to see them shortened, Hartley said.

Although COPD is a progressive disease, it is manageable through puffers, exercise and some of the programs offered in the province.

LungNSPEI's challenge, said Hartley, is making people aware of what's available — and about how to get tested before the disease progresses too far.