9 Things Your Pulmonologist Wants You to Know

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
  • copd, doctor listening to man's chest, chest, doctor, breathing, asthma
    Expert Tips on Breathing Easier
    If you have breathing issues, you may be seeing a pulmonologist, a specialist who treats respiratory issues like asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and emphysema. But do you ever wonder what your pulmonologist is really thinking? What could you be doing differently to improve your condition? Read on for nine insider tips on how you can begin breathing easier.
  • Doctor and patient discussing medical record in the hospital
    1. “Don’t make us play detective.”
    When you first meet with a pulmonologist, bring a summary of your medical history, list of medications, and past test results. “Not all electronic records communicate with one another. If you’ve been to the emergency room or had testing done with another specialist, I probably won’t know,” explains Carey Thomson, MD. “A lot of our work is investigation. Help us by knowing and sharing your medical history.”
  • Senior-woman-reading-label-on-medicine
    2. “Stay on your meds, even if you feel better.”
    Many pulmonary conditions like asthma and COPD rely on medications for treatment. But you must take them correctly to keep your condition under control. “Some people cut down on their medications when they start to feel good. But feeling better just means your treatment plan is working,” explains Fredric Jaffe, DO. “Never stop taking medications on your own. And if you experience side effects you can’t tolerate, tell your doctor.”
  • Doctor Talking to Man in Office
    3. “Don’t be embarrassed about bad habits.”
    Pulmonologists see patients every day who have smoked for decades, drink too much, or have other bad habits. But keeping them a secret only hurts yourself. “It’s important to be completely honest about your habits. You won’t be judged for them,” says Gerard J. Criner, MD. “Although your lifestyle may not seem important, it can make a big difference in how we plan your treatment.”
  • Myth #4: Exercise is a waste of breath.
    4. “Exercise is good for you — really.”
    Many people with breathing problems like COPD avoid exercise because it can lead to breathlessness. But physical activity can actually improve symptoms over time. “Even small amounts of exercise can decrease breathlessness, improve stamina, and boost quality of life,” says Dr. Jaffe. “Start with a five-minute walk two or three times a week and build up from there. Participating in a pulmonary rehab program can help.”
  • Man smoking
    5. “Smoking causes more health issues than lung cancer.”
    Some people believe that smoking only leads to lung cancer. But it’s important to know that smoking can cause a host of other health problems, from heart attack and stroke to throat and esophageal cancers. “Knowing what’s at risk can help you quit,” says Dr. Thomson.
  • man's hands breaking cigarette
    6. “Kicking the habit always helps.”
    Many pulmonary patients are long-term smokers. Some believe that quitting after developing a lung disease isn’t going to help. “No matter how long or how much you’ve smoked, quitting will benefit you,” says Dr. Criner. “Even people with severe lung disease who have smoked for 40 years can reap the benefits of improved symptoms by kicking the habit.”
  • Electronic Cigarette
    7. “We don’t know if electronic cigarettes are safe.”
    Although electronic cigarettes are growing in popularity and claim to be a safer alternative to smoking, Dr. Criner warns that they aren’t approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). “There are many stop-smoking products on the market. Different ones work for different people,” explains Dr. Criner. “We don’t know the risk of electronic cigarettes. For help in quitting smoking, join a smoking cessation program.”
  • Women doctor standing by weight scale
    8. “Your weight does matter.”
    When it comes to breathing problems, how heavy you are can make a big difference. “When extra weight sits on the chest, it requires the muscles to work harder to bring oxygen to the lungs,” says Dr. Thomson. “By losing weight, you’ll not only help yourself feel better but greatly improve your respiratory problems.”
  • Woman sleeping
    9. “Sleep is not negotiable.”
    Most people need seven to eight hours of sleep a night. But many people rarely get it. “It’s time to stop thinking of other things as more important and make sleep a priority,” explains Dr. Jaffe. “Insufficient sleep increases the risk of cardiovascular disease as well as overall mortality. If you have a chronic issue like sleep apnea, it’s important to seek treatment.”
9 Things Your Pulmonologist Wants You to Know
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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Sep 1
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.