The Solutions

Firstly as individuals, and as a society, there are many things we can do to improve the health of our lungs, bodies and minds.

Quit Smoking

If you smoke, by far the best thing you can do for your health is to quit smoking. The most effective way to do this is to get help from a trained professional and use medication, such as nicotine replacement, bupropion or varenicline to help deal with cravings. For more help visit

Tobacco smoking is also really bad for the environment.

Improve your inhaler technique

You probably think you know how to use your inhaler properly. Maybe you’ve been using it for years and feel patronised when asked. The reality is though, research trials repeatedly show inhaler technique is generally poor and deteriorates with time. Chances are your inhaler technique could be improved, and this could get more effective medication into your lungs, and less into your mouth and throat and ultimately your stomach where it causes side-effects without any beneficial effects.

If you haven’t had your inhaler technique checked recently, or you’re unsure how to use it ask for help at your GP practice. Information on effective inhaler technique is also available here at the asthma UK website, and here are some instructional videos.

Improve your asthma control (if you have asthma)

Patients often feel that the blue inhaler is the most important part of their treatment; it rapidly eases their symptoms by temporarily opening up the airways. But the blue inhaler does nothing to treat the underlying problem of inflamed and swollen airways. To settle the airway inflammation you need your controller treatment containing a steroid. Asthma patients who use a lot of blue inhalers (3 or more per year) are more likely to have severe flare-ups, but the opposite is true for patients who use lots of controller inhalers – they tend to have better disease control. Having effective controller treatment is therefore vital and can improve symptom control, reduce the risk of attacks, and reduce environmental impact.

Using one combination inhaler containing a small dose of steroid for disease control and a fast-acting airway to relieve symptoms is an increasingly popular option in asthma. Read more about Maintenance and reliever therapy here.

Air pollution

Air pollution is another major cause of lung disease in the UK, and it also contributes to a host of other health problems, including cancer, heart disease, stroke, and probably type 2 diabetes and dementia as well. As a society and as individuals we need to do more to reduce air pollution, in particular by ditching diesel vehicles and adopting more healthy active forms of transport like walking and cycling. Here are some great resources about air pollution from the clean air hub.

Exercise is a wonderdrug!

For most people getting more exercise is the best thing you can do to improve your health (perhaps quit smoking at the same time). Exercise is proven to improve asthma control and reduce symptoms from COPD. It may even slow the progression of COPD. Not only this, it reduces your risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke and improves your mental health. Here’s a great short film on the subject (called 23 and a half hours, but the video is only a few minutes long!).

If you’re still breathless despite your treatment then I’d really recommend a course of pulmonary rehabilitation. This can make you feel better, help you cope with breathlessness and improve your fitness. Talk to your doctor or nurse if you’d like more information or for a referral.

Changing to more environmentally friendly inhalers

If you use inhalers but are concerned about their environmental impact, you mustn’t stop your inhalers just to reduce your carbon footprint. Patients who reliably take their controller medication need fewer blue reliever inhalers, have better symptom control, and have a smaller carbon footprint of treatment. Your doctor or nurse should be able to advise you on what inhalers may be best for you, so talk to them when you are next reviewed or make an appointment to discuss it. They should also assess whether or not you are able to use different types of inhalers effectively.