It’s common knowledge that when the weather cools off, people with a lung condition are at increased risk of falling ill. Conditions including Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, severe asthma, bronchiectasis and Interstitial Lung Disease all leave the respiratory system exposed to infection, and if contracted, those living with a lung condition may experience symptoms that are more severe, and face an increased risk of hospitalisation and a lengthy recovery time.
Winter can be a dangerous time for those in our community with lung disease or lung cancer as the risk of picking up life-threatening viruses like influenza and pneumonia increases significantly. Particularly after more than a year of social distancing and isolation due to the Covid-19 pandemic, experts say it’s more important than ever to ensure you take steps to protect yourself against vaccine-preventable diseases this winter.
Lung Foundation Australia nurse Amanda Curran says while those with confirmed lung conditions are most definitely at risk during the cooler months, it’s the people in our community who are experiencing symptoms but have not yet been diagnosed that she is most concerned about.
As part of it’s Connect to Care service, Lung Foundation Australia provides no-cost telephone appointments with lung cancer support nurses for patients, their families and carers at any stage of the lung cancer journey. These experienced nurses can provide evidence-based information on diagnosis, treatment and managing the symptoms of lung cancer, but also support the wellbeing of patients and their loved ones. The service also provides free telephone appointments with nurses who specialise in respiratory care, as well as peer support groups for those living with lung conditions.
“We have people contacting our information support centre who are newly diagnosed as well as people who’ve lived with their lung condition for many years,” Amanda says. “We get a large number of people contacting us when their symptoms progress or become more severe, often seeking information about how to self-manage their symptoms or to receive some guidance on what to ask their doctor.”
Leading into winter, the support centre receives an influx of calls from patients and carers wanting information on how to stay well as the colder months approach, and how to better protect themselves from further illness, which often results in an appointment with a Lung Foundation nurse like Amanda.
These appointments can be made online or by phone and Lung Foundation Australia offers confidential phone-based support as well as other programs to connect those with lung conditions with others who are experiencing the same challenges.
The Lung Foundation’s Connect to Care service includes support groups and services, exercise programs, lung support and respiratory care nurses. Connect to Care, run by Lung Foundation Australia’s information and support centre team, provides trusted guidance and practical tips, and connects lung disease and lung cancer patients with valuable resources and other support services to help them while they navigate the road ahead.
While supporting lung disease patients is a core part of Lung Foundation Australia’s work, it also understands that carers’ needs are also important.
Those suffering from a lung condition often turn to their caregivers for help, from practical needs to emotional support and encouragement, which can take a toll on the friend or family member caring for them – this is the gap Lung Foundation Australia wants to bridge.
“People may often not see themselves as a carer, but if you do care for a friend or family member living with lung disease or lung cancer, we believe you deserve to access information, resources, and guidance, and to know that you’re not alone,” Amanda says.
“Lung Foundation Australia aims to support carers in our community as well as patients, and we want to provide them [carers] with a safe environment where they can be open and honest with each other about their experiences caring for a loved one.”
The online network hosts a variety of peer-led support groups, including a dedicated carer support group, and Amanda says she’d encourage carers right around Australia to contact the Lung Foundation Australia information support centre for advice.
If you or someone you know would like to get in touch with Lung Foundation Australia’s Connect to Care service, please call 1800 654 301 or visit the website.
IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.
The symptoms of lung disease or lung cancer tend to creep up slowly and people often put them down to ageing or a lack of fitness. Breathlessness, a persistent cough or fatigue can be signs of something serious. Take Lung Foundation Australia’s new Lung Health Checklist to get to know your lungs and learn the warning signs and symptoms. Download your results to discuss with your GP.