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What is Respiratory Therapy?

what is respiratory therapy

Respiratory therapists can work in a variety of settings providing respiratory therapy for patients with numerous lung related issues.

Respiratory therapy represents a dynamic and ever-changing career path that involves numerous skills and responsibilities.

Respiratory therapy involves helping patients with chronic breathing problems and lung issues. Many factors can cause respiratory problems such as lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and emphysema. Other issues such as asthma can be worsened by exposure to irritants such as cigarette smoke, pollen, smog, and chemical inhalants.

Most people who smoke cigarettes, pipes or cigars for long enough will experience health issues related to their tobacco habit. In addition, emerging news stories link the use of vaporizing devices (“vaping”) with breathing issues. That indicates these products do not offer a safe alternative to incendiary tobacco use. Regardless of the source, tobacco use can cause chronic respiratory disease.

Respiratory therapy can also help people who have suffered exposure to inhaled chemicals or other substances, which can also cause chronic respiratory diseases. People who professionally apply herbicides and pesticides for landscaping or agriculture, work with sprayed chemicals industrially such as painting cars, or work in a coal mine can experience lung problems because of their work. The American Thoracic Society states that the most common work-related lung diseases include work-related asthma, COPD, interstitial or fibrotic lung diseases, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, lung cancer, lung infections, and bronchiolitis obliterans/airway destruction. Improvements in workplace conditions because of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s regulations have decreased the number of incidences of these illnesses, especially of asbestosis. But people often overlook non-industrial settings such as schools, offices, and hospitals because of factors like cleaners, mold and construction dust.

The US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health states on its website (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22997873), “Work-related respiratory diseases affect people in every industrial sector, constituting approximately 60% of all disease and injury mortality and 70% of all occupational disease mortality.”

Respiratory therapy can also help improve the breathing of premature babies. According to the March of Dimes, 10 percent of babies are born too early. Of these, many need breathing assistance from birth and sometimes for months afterwards, even after they have been released from the neo-natal intensive care unit and go home.

Asthma represents yet another condition that may benefit from respiratory therapy. Many people diagnosed with asthma experience asthma attacks triggered by exposure to allergens, heavy exercise, or other irritants.

A respiratory therapist works as part of a medical team to help diagnose lung and breathing problems. The treatment for these issues often includes therapy to improve health and day-to-day lung function.