Lung Health Archive


Common questions about medical cannabis

While cannabis is still illegal at the federal level, more than two-thirds of US states have made it partly or fully legal for medical purposes. People who decide to use marijuana for a medical condition often have questions about its safety and proper use — the same considerations doctors weigh when determining whether it should be prescribed for a particular patient.

Take a deep breath before adopting new asthma guidelines

News briefs

Hold off before you follow new recommendations to treat mild, persistent asthma — or at least consult your doctor first. The updated guidelines from the National Institutes of Health, published online in the December 2020 issue of The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, say it's okay for people with mild, persistent asthma to stop daily use of inhaled corticosteroids and instead use them only as needed, along with short-acting beta agonists ("rescue" medications). That's considered a major shift in guidance. But that may not be a good idea for some older adults, notes Dr. Anna Wolfson, an allergist and immunologist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital. "A lot of people have a harder time with the occasional use of medications than a routine practice of daily use," she says. "And you may not want to decrease your asthma regimen during the pandemic. Poorly controlled asthma could lead to a flare or an ER visit, and perhaps an increased risk for complications if you develop COVID-19." Dr. Wolfson says there are some people who might benefit from using inhaled corticosteroids only as needed, but she urges you to speak with your doctor before changing your medication regimen.

Image: Branimir/Getty Images

COVID-19 or something else?

Many COVID-19 symptoms—such as fever, cough, or muscle aches—overlap with the symptoms of other respiratory conditions, such as influenza, a common cold, or asthma. But there are differences among the conditions. For example, a bout of the flu or a cold will not cause shortness of breath the way COVID-19 will. And while asthma can cause shortness of breath, it won’t cause a fever or body aches the way COVID-19 will. A person who’s experiencing concerning symptoms of respiratory illness should report them to a doctor.

Can vaping damage your lungs? What we do (and don't) know

Reports of severe lung illness experienced by hundreds of people who were using e-cigarettes raise questions again about the safety of vaping. Vaping can help some people stop smoking, but potential health risks likely outweigh any benefit.

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