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What is respiratory therapy and why do I need it?

Just like a physical therapist helps improve movement in the body, a respiratory therapist helps improve breathing in the body. If the lungs are not doing their job of bringing in enough oxygen to the bloodstream and clearing out carbon dioxide, serious complications can occur. When the body’s oxygen supply is depleted, the body is unable to function properly.

A build-up of carbon dioxide can damage tissues and organs. After surgery, deep breathing may be painful, but unless the lungs are cleared with proper breathing, there is a danger of developing pneumonia. Respiratory therapists play an important role on patient care teams in hospitals by making sure the lungs are working properly.

Here are four aspects of respiratory therapy worth knowing.

Using tools to improve breathing

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When a patient’s oxygen levels are low, action must be taken to improve breathing. In severe cases, respiratory therapists might use ventilators or medications. Other patients may just need to exercise their lungs. One common tool is an incentive spirometer. To use this tool, patients breathe into a mouthpiece connected to a tube with a ball inside. The ball moves with each inhalation. The deeper the inhale, the higher the ball rises. A respiratory therapist uses this visual indicator in the incentive spirometer to help patients establish a more effective breathing pattern that clears and strengthens the lungs.

Addressing stress

When breathing is difficult, it can make a patient anxious and add to health issues. Simply getting a visit from a respiratory therapist can be upsetting because it means there is a breathing issue. However, breathing issues can be overcome or managed by working with a respiratory therapist. By following the instructions given, progress can be made. Stay in communication with the respiratory therapist to learn what needs to be done. By taking action, breathing improvements occur and stress levels are reduced.

Establishing a routine


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For respiratory therapy to be effective, it is important to continue the treatment. Even when breathing is improved, continued therapy may be needed, especially for patients with chronic conditions like asthma, COPD or emphysema. Carry out the treatment as long as the respiratory therapist feels it is needed.


Monitoring respiration

Sometimes breathing issues come on very gradually and may not be recognized. Patients can begin to feel that diminished lung capacity is normal. This can cause complications since the body is not getting the oxygen needed for good health. Following up with regular visits to your doctor after an illness or hospitalization can help identify breathing issues. If oxygen levels are low, it may be time to return to respiratory therapy to correct problems.

Finding the best care possible

Recovery has many aspects, from pain management to respiratory therapy. Choosing to recover at a specialized care center like Whitehall of Deerfield is a great way to make sure your care is safe and effective. All short-term patients and residents at this premier short-term care rehabilitation center are screened for symptoms of respiratory illness. Whitehall of Deerfield is one of the few rehabilitation centers to provide a full-time respiratory therapist. This means patients with respiratory issues, including those with COVID-19, receive the timely and personalized treatment they need to recover faster, go home sooner and avoid having to be readmitted to the hospital.

When it comes to choosing an environment that enhances recovery, Whitehall of Deerfield is the area’s premier choice for post-hospital recovery. With excellent outcomes and a resort-like setting, Whitehall of Deerfield has consistently received Medicare’s highest rating in Medicare’s five-star rating system of nursing and post-hospital rehabilitation centers. Whitehall of Deerfield is also ranked among the top 1% of all post-hospital rehabilitation and nursing care centers in Illinois by Newsweek — and has received U.S. News & World Report’s “Top Performing” rating. Learn more about the individualized, one-on-one therapy programs, world-class amenities and COVID-19 safety measures by visiting WhiteHallofDeerfield.com or calling 847-945-4600.

—J. Buchenot for Whitehall of Deerfield

300 Waukegan Road Deerfield, IL 60015 | 847.945.4600