Polio Place

A service of Post-Polio Health International

Living With Polio

Millions of individuals who had polio are living in all areas of the world. Survivors range in age from a few months to nonagenarians (in their nineties). Aftereffects vary greatly depending on the number and location of the nerve cells destroyed by the poliovirus. The challenge or ease of living with polio varies for each survivor, depending on the availability of medical care and rehabilitation opportunities, and their family and social support.

Advice, hints, explanations, etc., are categorized by topic and are searchable. The source of the material is identified.

Reminder: PHI’s post-polio.org and IVUN’s ventusers.org or ventnews.org features numerous articles to assist in living with polio.

Breath Control

You can save energy … by breathing! Say what? Isn’t that what we do all the time? Who even thinks about it?

Well, people with asthma, chronic bronchitis or emphysema (COPD) think about it a lot because they have to work hard at it, especially when they exhale. They have difficulty exhaling stale air and that leaves less room in the lungs to inhale the life-giving oxygen the body needs.

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New breathing problems in aging polio survivors can be insidious and often not recognized by either polio survivors or health care professionals. Individuals who used an iron lung, or barely escaped one, during the acute phase should be aware of potential problems to avoid underventilation and possible respiratory failure. Those survivors who did not need ventilatory assistance during the acute phase, especially those who had high spinal polio and who have upper body weakness and/or diaphragm weakness, may also be at risk.

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Pulmonary Function Tests

Pulmonary function testing can be done in a pulmonary function laboratory. Simpler tests can also be done in a physician's office or in the home. Testing most often is used to identify airflow abnormality, reduced lung volume (restrictive abnormality), diffusing capacity changes (as in interstitial disease), and blood gas abnormality (too much carbon dioxide, too little oxygenation). The following tests are commonly performed.

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Polio's Effects


Why are "old polios" who were stable for years now losing function? What should they do about it?
Jacquelin Perry, MD, DSc (Hon), Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center, Downey, California

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