A study recently published (February 2014) in the International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health assessed the prevalence of chronic respiratory conditions in (South Australian) metropolitan fire fighters. It also studied associations between occupational exposure, use of respiratory protection and health-related quality of life (HRQoL) in firefighters with and without chronic respiratory conditions.
Respiratory symptoms, medical conditions, occupational tasks and exposures and consistency of using respiratory protection were inquired by questionnaire. The Health Survey was used to measure physical and mental health-related quality of life.
Fire-fighters were categorised in subgroups: asthma; COPD/emphysema/chronic bronchitis; no chronic respiratory conditions; and as being ‘not involved’ or ‘involved’ in fire-fighting tasks, the latter further categorised as ‘consistent’ or ‘inconsistent’ use of respiratory protection.
Ten percent of metropolitan fire-fighters reported underlying chronic respiratory conditions. Presence of such a condition in combination with suboptimal protection from inhaled exposures may lead to poorer physical health-related quality of life.
How could POWERbreathe help?
A project conducted at the University of Birmingham Sports Medicine and Human Performance Unit into the respiratory performance in firefighters unearthed some not-so-surprising findings:
- Lung function is impaired whilst wearing SCBA (Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus)
- Respiratory muscle strength and lung function are impaired further after physical work in SCBA
- Firefighters adopt a special breathing strategy to minimise the breathlessness induced by working in SCBA
Looking at data from scientific studies, if firefighters performed POWERbreathe Inspiratory Muscle Training for a minimum of 4-weeks, they could:
- Increase their inspiratory muscle strength
- Reduce breathlessness
- Reduce heart rate (1)
- Reduce the rate of air use from the cylinder (increasing wear time by around 1.5 min from a 15 min cylinder) (1)
- Increase time to exhaustion (findings from a standard laboratory treadmill test)
(1) Donovan K, McConnell A. Fire-fighters’ Self-contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA): The Effects of Inspiratory Muscle Training (IMT) during Fire-Fighting Simulations in the Laboratory. In: Hanson, Lovesey, Robertson, editors. Annual Conference of the Ergonomics Society; 1999: Ergonomics Society; 1999. p. 348-52.
Read more about how POWERbreathe could benefit those in the Fire Service.