Air, fresh air
Experts explain the importance of breathing properly and what we can do to take better care of our airways.
por Angélica Queiroz
Research carried out by the University of São Paulo (USP) suggests that breathing the air of the capital of São Paulo for two hours in traffic is equivalent to smoking one cigarette a day. And the problem is not only in big cities or just in Brazil. Studies by the World Health Organization (WHO) show that more than 90% of human beings breathe polluted air, this is because the rate is also high in rural areas, where it is common to burn solid fuels indoors.
Okay, we know that new energy sources promise a less toxic world, but until then we will continue to be subjected to the effects of air pollution – something as certain as the sweet arrival of autumn and winter, with blue skies and white clouds, but also the cold and the low humidity that both irritate the airways. Thinking about all this, in the month dedicated to “Breathing”, we went to talk to doctors and specialists from the accredited network to try to better understand this involuntary and vital impulse. What to do (and what not to do) so that the air simply enters and leaves the body in the healthiest way? Take a deep breath and good reading.
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The pawn in chess
Try to breathe only through your mouth for a few seconds and you will soon realize that the body does not consider this the ideal way to perform the exchange of gases between the organism and the environment. OK, during physical activities the body needs more oxygen and breathing through the mouth can be necessary and even automatic. But, yes, there is a right way to breathe, which is inhaling and exhaling through the nose, as our grandmothers said. Nasal breathing works as a filter, preventing impurities from reaching the body. In addition, breathing through the nose maintains natural defenses such as nasal mucus and micro-lashes, which protect us from colds and sinusitis. “It is our first defense”, explains the pulmonologist Dr. Maria Laura Sandeville. “In comparison to the game of chess, the nose acts like pawns.”
Getting around the flu
The pulmonologist Dr. Maria Laura Sandeville points out that the flu vaccine is an important care. When autumn begins, it is easier to be infected by the virus because, in addition to irritating the airways, the cold climate makes us adopt risky habits, such as preferring indoors. According to her, even though it is not mandatory for all age groups, annual vaccination is always recommended, due to virus mutations. “Besides, common sense – like to always be dressed according to weather.”
Smoking problems are not just long-term. One puff is enough for the integrity of the respiratory system to be compromised by an inflammatory reaction caused by the high temperature of the smoke – the cough reflex that accompanies the beginners’ puffs demonstrates this. And depending on medical opinion, electronic cigarettes or rolled cigarettes do not escape – both fashionable among young people. “The rolled cigarette is the coarsest and, therefore, extremely harmful. Electronic cigarettes, even without nicotine, also affect lung health, because it is not the only toxic substance and, in short, any type of smoke affects the lung ”, observes the pulmonologist Dr. Maria Laura Sandeville. “Another problem is that, since electronic cigarettes have less nicotine, many people end up smoking more.”
Smoke in the Park
According to a recent survey published in the newspaper O Estado de São Paulo, not even natural strongholds escape São Paulo’s pollution. Ibirapuera Park, for example, appears at the top of the regions with the highest concentration of ozone in the city – gas that, in contact with the organism, reacts mainly with the mucosa that lines the airways, oxidizing them and decreasing the defenses against infections . “Pollution agents act as airway irritants. But we can take some precautions, avoiding exposure to aggressive agents such as dust and, if possible, not going out during peak traffic hours or early in the morning, when the combination of cold and pollution at this time of year can become even more harmful ” , guides the pulmonologist Dr. Maria Laura Sandeville.
How are your gas exchanges?
For the speech therapist and otolaryngologist Dr. Bruno Rossini, breathing well is presenting a comfortable inhalation and exhalation through the nose, without the perception of obstruction or difficulty in the nasal region, throat and lung. “Nasal breathing is very important. With it, in addition to being able to condition the air, we prepare the lungs to receive it through a reflex called naso-alveolar, which consists of filtration, heating and humidification. Thus, the air becomes more suitable to reach the lungs and carry out the necessary gas exchanges. ” Well, it took us several thousand years to develop this efficient system, where everything is interconnected, so we know how uncomfortable a nasal obstruction can be. At these times, we need to make a greater effort to breathe, which can interfere with our quality of life – snoring and sleep apnea are good examples. “When the nose is chronically blocked, there is often a decrease in smell, which can lead to a secondary decrease in taste,” says Dr. Rossini. “These senses are closely correlated.”
The bascics for the winter
What is the relationship between climate and respiratory problems? Dr. Bruno Rossini, speech therapist and otorhinolaryngologist, explains that there are always days with low air humidity and high concentration of pollutants in winter – especially in large cities and, even more so, in São Paulo. To avoid problems, the expert has simple tips, many of which are familiar to everyone, but which continue to deserve more attention:
- Drink plenty of water.
- Humidify the environments using vaporizers, wet towels and water containers.
- Apply saline solution to the nostrils regularly.
The expert’s nose
According to the speech therapist and otorhinolaryngologist Dr. Bruno Rossini, if nasal secretions occur in a chronic way, for example, the evaluation of an otorhinolaryngologist is necessary, as cases of rhinitis or sinusitis require specific treatment. The same in the face of respiratory symptoms. “Today, there are several safe medications for the treatment and control of respiratory allergies, which provides an important improvement in the quality of life.”
A matter of nasal potency
We all know how to recognize when someone sounds confident or nervous. What we don’t usually observe is how breathing participates in all of this. “Reconciling breathing with the cadence of speech is essential for a good oratory”, explains the speech therapist and otorhinolaryngologist dr. Bruno Rossini. “When we are anxious and afraid to speak in public, quick and shallow breathing is common. This, in itself, impairs our performance. When we get more conscious of breathing, we get more control of the situation, we become calmer. Good nasal potency is very important in those moments.”
The devil running in fear
The immunologist Dr. Eduardo Finger guarantees that we need not fear the fact that there are bacteria everywhere. “After 3.8 billion years in this world, evolving with it, we are more than prepared to deal with any animal that enters our system, as long as we are healthy and our lungs are healthy.” Problems can occur, according to the specialist, if the patient has any underlying disease, such as asthma or any other that makes it difficult to maintain the lung. There, yes, bacteria have an advantage. “it takes two to dance. In the case of infections, one is the bacterium, the other one is the host. So much so that I go to the hospital every day, and my mouth has bacteria that would make the devil run in fear! But nothing happens to me, because I am not susceptible. If I am sick or have a problem, they can take advantage, but under normal conditions of temperature and pressure, when we are well, they do not stand a chance. ”
Cells crazy for a fight
For the immunologist Dr Eduardo Finger, asthmatics are like angry dogs: you just need to give them space to bark. “Pollution in the lung comes into contact with those cells that are already mad for a fight”, explains Dr. Eduardo Finger. “And all they need is this to do what they know, which is to ignite and clog, which only happens when there is a breakdown in the balance of the immune system.” And to keep the immune system in balance, there is the old and well-known recipe: healthy eating and exercise. “Besides, there is nothing more to do. It looks simple – and it is.”
What does the dentist have to do with it?
Many people do not know, but breathing problems can also be treated at the dentist. “It seems like a harmless habit, but breathing through your mouth can bring harm such as the abnormal development of the face and dental arches”, says the periodontist Dr. Maria Christina Brunetti. “As mouth breathing keeps the mouth open most of the time, the bones of the jaw undergo changes.” Tooth misalignment, one of the consequences of mouth breathing, can be treated with the installation of an orthodontic appliance, which corrects the positioning of the teeth and normalizes facial growth, restoring the smile’s aesthetic.
A snoring child is not well
Nasal breathing started correctly since childhood is essential for the proper development of facial bones. The periodontist Dr. Maria Laura Sandeville recalls that cases of children who cannot breathe through their nose are common, which can lead to respiratory problems and even cause changes in the dental arch. “Snoring in children is a sign that something in the upper airway is not going well. If they sleep with their mouths open, there is something to be investigated. ” Attention should be redoubled with younger children, who may suffer from the so-called mouth breathing syndrome, which causes changes in sleep, anxiety, poor school performance, daytime sleepiness. There is also a greater likelihood of respiratory infections. “Pacifiers and bottles for longer than recommended (beyond 3 years) are also bad habits. The dental surgeon can guide families about corrective habits in the use of bottles and pacifiers, as well as about breastfeeding ”, adds Dr. Maria Christina Brunetti.
Improve your breathing
The periodontist Dr. Maria Christina Brunetti teaches breathing exercises that we can do at home.
- With your mouth closed, lips tightly sealed, make circular movements with your tongue.
- Lying on your back, place a weight of around a pound on your stomach and breathe through your nose. Pull in the air with your mouth closed, filling the entire abdomen with air and thus pushing the weight upwards. Release it through your nose, emptying all the accumulated air, trying to put your back flat on the floor, lowering your belly. Merge the nostrils.
- ● Sitting on the floor, bend your legs and join the soles of your feet together, holding them with your hands. Make movements with your legs up and down, breathing fast through your nose.
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See what the experts suggest
so you can breathe better.
Observe the process
Breathe through your mouth, only when exercising, when your body needs more oxygen.
Avoid the wrong time
There is no safe place, but we can escape peak traffic hours, for example.
Keep the system clean
Flushing your nostrils with 0.9% saline prevents irritation of the airways and helps you breathe better.
Observe children’s sleep
Snoring or an open mouth at night may indicate that something is not going well.
Do not smoke
All smoke is bad. Rolled cigarettes, organic, nicotine-free or electronic cigarettes are harmful to health.
Watch for signs
See a specialist if you have difficulty breathing, dry or phlegm cough, tightness in your chest, wheezing or back pain when breathing, nasal congestion, runny nose, loss of appetite, weight loss or breathlessness during physical activity.
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