WHAT WE’RE READING THIS WEEK: Spring is here, but so is allergy season


Don’t fear allergies this spring

dandelion-1187504-638x477Spring is finally here. As this weekend is expected to have warm temperatures and sunny conditions across most parts of Alberta, it’s the perfect time to go outside and enjoy the outdoors.

However, it’s also the start of the season for allergies and asthma triggers.

As the American Lung Association points out, pollen is perhaps the most obvious springtime and allergy offender, and up here in Alberta, you can also count winter mould.

You can avoid being forced to do a Netflix marathon during a sunny weekend by following these steps:


The American Lung Association also suggests doing yard work and gardening in the evening when pollen counts are usually at its lowest. Keep in mind, fertilizers and freshly cut grass can worsen asthma symptoms. It suggests if you do those outdoor chores consider wearing a partial mask — available at most hardware stores — to avoid breathing in those tiny particles.

Is asthma over-diagnosed?

CBC, HEADLINE: Asthma diagnosis ‘trivialized,’ fuels overdiagnosis, doctors say; Published April 15, 2016.

asthma-inhaler-1419833-639x424Here’s another reason why it is so important to support medical research funding when it comes to lung illnesses like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

As mentioned in last week’s “What We’re Reading This Week” (WWETW) post, British researchers and medical professionals are debating whether or not inhalers are being over-prescribed. Some medical researchers on one side of the conversation say inhalers have become somewhat of “a fashion accessory.”

Now that debate has reached Canada. Dr. Shawn Aaron, a respirologist from Ottawa Hospital, says more than 30 per cent of Canadians diagnosed with asthma don’t in fact have it.

His comments are based on his own research published in 2010. His research involved studies on roughly 500 adults.

However, inhalers — as mentioned in the previous WWETW post — have been credited for saving the lives for millions of people worldwide since is was first created 60 years ago.
With more funding for medical research, health professionals may be able to solve this dilemma soon.

Check out a joint position statement released by the Canadian Thoracic Society and the Canadian Paediatric Society last year on the diagnosis and management of asthma in preschoolers.


Lung research is giving children better odds of survival


Kara Hamm, 2, was born with congenital diaphragmatic hernia and underwent a life-saving surgery.

Kara Hamm — now two-years-old — was born with a hole in her diaphragm, the muscle that separates the lungs from the abdomen.

This hole interfered in the diaphragm’s crucial role of helping the lungs to inflate for breathing. It also allowed Kara’s internal organs to shift upwards and push aside her already abnormally developed lungs.

“As a pediatric surgeon, I’ve operated on many babies like Kara,” said Dr. Richard Keijzer, a pediatric surgeon-scientist at the University of Manitoba. “It’s heartbreaking to know that as many as 10 to 20 per cent of these precious won’t survive. Others may have lung complications and struggle to breathe throughout their lives.”

Keijzer says Kara, and other babies born like her, inspire him to begin his research on congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH). The Lung Association, with its amazing supporters, have helped fund this much needed research.


Dr. Richard Keijzer, Pediatric Surgeon-Scientist, University of Manitoba

Thanks to The Lung Association’s supporters, Keijzer’s says his research has “propelled forward in amazing directions” and “now is the time for your support.”

With about 150 children born worldwide with CDH every day, it’s almost as common as cyctic fibrosis.

“We knew that Kara would be born with this illness because it showed up on ultrasounds during her mother’s pregnancy,” said Keijzer in a personal letter to supporters of The Lung Association. “We also know she’d be born with serious complications, like pulmonary hypertension, and would need ventilators to breathe.


“After her birth, it was several days before Kara stabilized and we were able to operate to close the hole. Her parents, Holly and Cody, didn’t even know if they’d get to bring Kara home because CDH has claimed more than 300,000 lives since the year 2000.

Now, as Keijzer points out, if researchers can learn how this abnormal lung development happens, there would be no need for doctors to perform complicated surgeries on vulnerable babies. That is exactly what Keijzer is researching.

“The more we understand about this disease, the better targeted therapies we can develop to treat it,” said Keijzer.

Your support is important. One in five Albertans live with a lung disease such as asthma, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The annual burden of lung disease is $12 billion in Canada. Without answers, it’s predicted that figure could double by 2030. Research can help this trend.

Please continue to support this work so we can find new treatments and cures for those living with lung disease. Then we can all breathe easier.

For more information on how your donations help with research, give us a call at 1-888-566-5864.

WHAT WE’RE READING THIS WEEK: Take me out to the ball game tobacco free


Batting tobacco out of the park

It’s the opening week of major league baseball in the United States and in Canada’s biggest city — the home of the Toronto Blue Jays.

This season is a little different as a handful of baseball cities are coming together to fight tobacco. That movement is creating steam in New York City where its mayor, Bill De Blasio,  signed a bill Wednesday (April 6, 2015) that bans the use of smokeless tobacco products at all ticketed baseball stadiums, sports arenas, and recreation areas.

Similar bans have already been put in place at ball parks in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Boston.

This has been the result of a campaign that the American Lung Association partnered in, called Knock Tobacco Out of the Park. The campaign was created to make sure sights of seeing players stuff large wads of tobacco into their mouths becomes a thing of the past.

The American Lung Association says MLB players have a major effect on whether kids — especially young boys — start using smokeless tobacco.

Acbaseball-game-1316732-639x852cording to a a September 2015 report from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, high school athletes are using smokeless tobacco at close to half the rate of non-athletes. Smokeless tobacco rates among high school athletes also jumped by more than 11 per cent from 2001 to 2013. And the report shows that smokeless tobacco rates among high school athletes are alarming high at 17.3 per cent in 2013.

The American Lung Association cites that smokeless tobacco — which has dangerous risks to health, including oral, pancreatic and esophageal cancer — is being marketed to children. Roughly $503.2 million is being spent by smokeless tobacco companies to market their products.

Asthma inhalers celebrate 60th anniversary

The Guardian: Asthma Inhalers Celebrate 60th Anniversary With Debate on Over-Prescription, published April 8, 2015

asthma-inhaler-1419833-639x424The Guardian has helped remind us that an inhaler, an important tool to help those with asthma manage their symptoms, is celebrating its 60th anniversary.

Report Harpon Siddique take a look at how the inhaler has  been credited for saving the lives of millions of people, and how a debate is surfacing on how the inhaler has been, in his words, “in a sense, a victim of its own success.”

The entire story is an interesting look into the inhalers that have been around since 1956. Let us know what you think? Do you have a story about how your inhaler helped you? Send us an email.



WHAT WE’RE READING THIS WEEK: Alberta researchers helping kids breathe easier


Asthma researchers create digital tool to help Alberta family docs

UToday: Asthma researchers develop electronic care guide for family docs, published March 23, 2016

Researchers from the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary designed a digital tool to help asthmatic children breathe easier.

A newly-designed treatment guide will be put directory into an asthmatic child’s electronic medical record with their family doctor — ensuring they receive the best care.

Twenty-two medical practices across Alberta will be using this tool as part of a three-year study to test its usefulness when it comes to managing childhood asthma care.

The University of Calgary says if the results are positive, a province wide rollout “is envisioned.”

Researchers expect this digital tool could help doctors prescribe the proper medication, along with guiding parents when it comes to filling and using the prescriptions properly.

Doctors will be given a tool called a decision-making tree into a child’s electronic medical record to help with their diagnosis, while their staff will be given better training to provide education on asthma treatments.

Click here to read more about the story. 

Federal government urged to build better strategy to ban asbestos

The Globe & Mail: Pressure mounts on Ottawa to join wide ban on asbestos, published March 27, 2016


More health organizations, nurse unions, and building trades councils are urging Canada’s government to come up with a plan to fully ban asbestos.

The Lung Association has determined that all forms of asbestos cause asbestosis, a progressive debilitating fibrotic disease of the lungs. The Lung Association has also determined that all forms of asbestos cause malignant mesothelioma, lung and laryngeal cancers. 

The best way to eliminate asbestos-related lung diseases is to stop its use. The mining and export of asbestos should be banned to protect everyone’s lung health.

Read more about this interesting story from the Globe & Mail.


Edmonton mother, daughter continue struggle with lung disease


Sharla Ozeroff, an Edmonton mother, holds her daughter, 18-month-old Luna Ozeroff during a meeting with The Lung Association, Alberta & NWT March 21. Luna has a rare lung disease known as congenital lobar emphysema. (Jeff Cummings Photo)

Sharla Ozeroff, an Edmonton mother of four young children, admits she has a hard time sleeping at night.

Her playful 18-month old daughter, Luna, had to endure extremely difficult breathing challenges ever since she was born. The young girl has a very rare lung disease known as congenital lobar emphysema — an illness that causes Luna’s upper left lobe and middle right lobe of her lungs to be overinflated, making it difficult for her to breathe. Air that is breathed into the lungs gets trapped, causing the over-inflation of the lungs.

Congenital lobar emphysema is rare, but the condition usually affects only one lobe of the lungs. But in Luna’s case, her condition affects both of her lobes — something that is only reported in five per cent of cases.

“Breathing is so important — we seem to take it for granted until we all get to a point where we can no longer do it, or until your child can’t do it.” said Ozeroff. “It is very scary to see your child with blue lips in the middle of the night. It’s hard to sleep at night.”

Luna’s challenges began one hour after she was born, according to her mother. Luna, Ozeroff’s youngest daughter, was born after a “completely uncomplicated pregnancy,” but roughly one hour after the birth, Luna went into respiratory distress, said her mother.

Doctors were able to reduce Luna’s symptoms temporarily and after a five-day stay in hospital, the family was sent home.

However, when Luna was two-months old, Ozeroff said during a nap she discovered her baby girl’s skin was grey and her lips were blue. Luna was then rushed to the hospital where doctors resuscitated her and found out her oxygen levels were extremely low.

Luna stayed in hospital on oxygen for a week and was released. However, two months later, Luna was once again admitted to Hospital, and that’s when doctors discovered Luna’s condition was worse than originally thought.

“The alarm bells started going off,” said Ozeroff.

Doctors found her trachea was bent off to one side and her left upper lobe of her lungs was so large, it was pushing vital organs over, putting pressure on her heart. A CT scan also showed her condition included the swelling of her middle left lobe.

Luna is now on medication to treat her illness and had a lobectomy on her upper left lobe when she was six months old.

However, because of her surgery, surgeons can’t treat her condition that affects her right lobe because of complications with the surgery on her left lobe.

“The doctors never had a patient quite like Luna,” said Ozeroff. “They don’t really know what to do.”

Ozeroff says her family has to endure a lot of uncertainty that includes many trips to the hospital, including seven emergency visits in one month during November 2015 for baby Luna.

The Lung Association, Alberta & NWT needs your help to make a difference for Luna and the many other children suffering from lung disease.

Your donations today will help researchers make a difference for families like the Ozeroffs. Help us find better treatments and cures for children like Luna, give to The Lung Association today.


WHAT WE’RE READING THIS WEEK: What happens during a hiccup?


Have you ever wondered what happens when you have the hiccups?

The American Lung Association, HEADLINE: Inconvenient hiccups, published March 17, 2016

Your diaphragm is an important muscle. It helps with your breathing by expanding and contracting your chest and that movement draws air into your lungs.

And, as our friends at the American Lung Association points out, we don’t really think about how awesome the diaphragm really is when you’re having a bad case of the hiccups.

A hiccup happens when the diaphragm spasms — it snaps your vocal cords causing that squeaky hiccup sound.

Check out the post from the American Lung Association’s blog to learn more about hiccups.

In the meantime, check out how challenging it is for this young seven-year-old who is trying to battle through a bad case of the hiccups while singing Australia’s national anthem. It took our breath away watching this.

For sale: bags of fresh air in China to fight pollution problem

The Mirror, HEADLINE: Bags of fresh air on sale in China to combat pollution problem, published March 26, 2016. 

hazy-day-in-beijing-1536906-640x480Remember that hairy-nose-filled PSA we shared on this blog, which was about reminding people in China to take action against air pollution because “it changes you.”

It seems air pollution in China has already changed some business opportunities for those vendors who cater to tourists looking to escape their smog-filled cities.

Vendors are selling bags of air at touristy hiking locations in China’s mountain parks. The bags of mountain air can then be taken home to enjoy or to be used straight away.

Small bags for sale for $1.88 CDN each and large bags for  sale for $5.63 CDN sometimes come with flower pedals to make the air “more pleasant” in the bag.

WHAT WE’RE READING THIS WEEK: Pigeons to the rescue


Pigeons used to monitor air pollution in London

CNN: Pigeon Air Patrol To The Rescue, Published Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Air quality monitoring is for the birds — literally.

It’s not a bird-brained idea, says a company behind a flock of pigeons that fly above the streets of London with backpack-like devices strapped to their backs to monitor the city’s air pollution.

Plume Labs, the company behind the Pigeon Air Patrol, says each of the pigeons’ packs monitors nitrogen dioxide and other forms of air pollution in a city that has some of the highest levels of air pollution in the world.

The company says roughly 9,400 London residents die every year as a result of air pollution and it hopes that its Pigeon Air Patrol will make people become advocates for better air quality in London.

As a way to track the air pollution, 10 trained birds will fly to the sky with their backpacks. Once the birds are in the air, their backpacks automatically tweet the results.

Children smoking rates down, but e-cig use is up: study

CBC: Teen cannabis use at lowest level since 1980s: study, Published March 16, 201

no-smoking-1520003-640x640Smoking among school-aged Canadian children is significantly down, but more children are using electronic cigarettes.

That is according to researchers behind a study, Health Behaviour Among School Aged Children.

Elizabeth Saewyc, a co-author of the study and a professor of nursing at the University of British Columbia tells the CBC that she is concerned about the increase in the usage of e-cigerettes.

“E-cigarettes are one of those things that we’re beginning to be a little concerned about, because clearly the tobacco use is down, and has been consistently low, but if they’re trying e-cigarettes at that level, does that mean we could be seeing a turnaround and smoking will become cool again,” said Saewyc to the CBC.

Poor air bad for your lungs and can cause diabetes: study

forbidden-pollution-1245100-639x426Reuters: Air Pollution not just bad for your lungs, Published March 16, 2016

Being exposed to air pollution for up to a month or two can increase an obese person’s chances of getting diabetes, suggests a recent U.S. study.

Reuters reports that researchers followed more than 1,000 Mexican-Americans in southern California. What researchers found was that their short-term exposure to poor air quality was linked to an increase risk of high cholesterol. They also found that the bad air impaired the processing of blood sugar — a risk for diabetes.

However, scientists still don’t know how air pollution might lead to diabetes.

For more, check out the story on Reuters.