October 23 through 29, 2022 is National Respiratory Therapy Week. When President Ronald Reagan founded this health observance in a 1982 proclamation, chronic obstructive lung diseases affected almost 17.2 million Americans. There is still much work to be done. Today, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the fourth leading cause of deaths in the U.S. and more than 26 million children and adults experience asthma in some form. Respiratory Therapy Week acknowledges the vital role of the Respiratory Therapists (RTs) who are on the front lines of supporting lung health.
What is respiratory disease?
Respiratory disease is a general medical term that refers to diseases of the respiratory system. These diseases range from the common cold to bacterial pneumonia and pulmonary embolism. Some of the most common respiratory diseases in the world include:
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Common cold or rhinitis
- Chronic sinusitis
- Hay fever or allergic rhinitis
What’s a Respiratory Therapist?
The 1982 proclamation celebrated the role of RTs or Respiratory Care Practitioners (RCPs) who, “relieve distressing symptoms, restore normal lung capacity, or help the patient conserve and make the best use” of his or her lungs. Today, RTs continue to help physicians in the evaluation, diagnosis, and care of patients with conditions like emphysema, asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, cardiac failure and chest trauma. A nebulizer is one of the important items in an RT’s toolkit. It can offer therapy in a clinical setting, but also allow patients to administer their own care from home.
Nebulizers turn liquid medicine into aerosol droplets that can be easily inhaled. This method delivers a higher concentration of medicine into the respiratory tract than pills, tablets or injections. Because of this fact, nebulizing medication can be more effective than oral medications, injections or inhalers for some conditions. Asthma and COPD are common, chronic respiratory conditions that nebulizers can be effective in treating.
What kind of nebulizer should you use? Ask your RT
There are different kinds of nebulizers. A doctor or RT will recommend the right one for different conditions. Some of the choice depends on the right particle size for the right part of the respiratory tract. General guidelines RTs may follow are:
- Nebulizers that make smaller particles deliver medicine into the lower airways for COPD, bronchitis and bronchiolitis
- Patients with severe respiratory conditions may need a nebulizer with a higher nebulization rate
- A nebulizer with low noise and gentler mist can make it easier to give medicine to children and babies
- People who travel or are mobile throughout the day may do best with a “mesh-type” model which is powered by batteries but still delivers the same power
National Respiratory Therapy Week is a great time to celebrate the work of dedicated RTs and also raise awareness of lung health. Because #BreathingMatters.