Respiratory Illnesses

Last updated on: Friday, 5 May 2023
  • What You'll Learn

Respiratory illness or disease affects the lungs and other parts of the respiratory system. These diseases are caused by infection, smoking, or breathing in secondhand tobacco smoke, radon, asbestos, or other forms of air pollution. Respiratory disease includes asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pulmonary fibrosis, pneumonia, and lung cancer.

The World Health Organization defines chronic respiratory disease as a disease of the lung’s airways and other structures. Some of the most common are chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, occupational lung disease, and pulmonary hypertension. Unfortunately, chronic respiratory diseases are not curable. However, various treatments help dilate major air passages and improve shortness of breath. The treatment also helps control symptoms and increase the quality of life for people with the disease, per the WHO.

According to Health Canada, the two most important risk factors for chronic respiratory diseases are tobacco smoke and indoor and outdoor air quality. The Public Health Agency of Canada reports that over three million Canadians are affected by one of five serious respiratory diseases. In 2013, over 2.3 Canadians aged 12 and older reported that a health professional had diagnosed them with asthma. Moreover, over 830,000 adults were living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Respiratory disease, including lung cancer, are a major cause of death in Canada. The three most common respiratory diseases are lung cancer, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), influenza, and pneumonia. Lung cancer is the leading cause of death for both sexes and is responsible for approximately equal proportions of all deaths among men and women. Unfortunately, deaths due to influenza and pneumonia increase with age. Respiratory disease in Canada has a significant economic impact on the economy, costing billions of dollars per year to manage and treat the problem.

According to a provincial and territorial ranking, Ontario and British Columbia have the country’s lowest respiratory death rates. The territories have deaths connected to respiratory disease nearly five times the Canadian average. The prevalence of the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is highest in the Maritime provinces and Quebec. Overall, Canada ranks 8th among 16 peer countries, with an average of 63.1 deaths per 100,000 population due to respiratory disease.