Air pollution is an issue that affects all of us, particularly when we live in big cities like London. However, for those of us who already have problems with our lungs, the impact can be much worse. What are the signs that your asthma is being affected by air pollution and what can you do to reduce the impact of air pollution on your health?
Air Pollution and Asthma
Air pollution is harmful for everyone, but it can be worse for people who have asthma. When chemical or particulate pollution gets into your airways, it can irritate the lining and trigger inflammation. If you have asthma, this could bring on your symptoms. The irritation in your airways can also make you more sensitive to other asthma triggers.
Around 2 in 3 people with asthma will find that their symptoms get worse when the air quality is bad. Although using your preventer inhaler can limit the impact, you may find that you need to use your reliever inhaler more often when you’re in polluted areas. Air pollution can increase the chances of an asthma attack.
The best way to find out whether air pollution is affecting your asthma is to keep a diary to monitor your symptoms and when they appear. You may find that you’re more likely to experience symptoms on days when you’ve been in more polluted environments or when the air quality is worse than usual.
If your asthma does react to air pollution then you may find that you experience symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, scratchiness in your throat, of tightness in your chest for up to a day after you’ve been exposed. You may also need to use your reliever inhaler more often.
How to Avoid Air Pollution Outside?
We can’t avoid outdoor air pollution completely, but there are some steps we can take to reduce our exposure. Although some types of air pollution can travel a long way, the air quality is a lot worse near the sources of the pollution. Just walking on the side of the pavement furthest from the road or choosing a route along a quieter street can make a big difference to the air you’re breathing.
You can reduce exposure to air pollution by:
- Keeping away from pollution hotspots such as busy roads and construction sites as much as possible. Remember that this applies even if you are inside your own vehicle.
- Try to avoid travelling during rush hour if you can. It is also better to travel during the morning than the evening, as pollution levels tends to increase during the day.
- Keep an eye on the weather and take extra care on still or humid days when pollution levels will be higher. Many weather reports will include an air quality forecast. If this indicates that the pollution levels are particularly high, it is best to avoid outdoor activities and to be aware that you’re more likely to need your reliever inhaler.
Reducing Indoor Air Pollution
Discussions of air pollution usually focus on the smoke and fumes that we encounter outdoors, but there are also many chemicals inside our homes that can trigger asthma attacks. Indoor air pollution mainly comes from the chemicals that we use in cleaning products, which can break down into more harmful substances that could trigger your asthma. Other potential sources of indoor air pollution include open fires, wood stoves, candles, and mould.
Reducing indoor pollution can help with asthma and it will also protect your family against other lung conditions. Some of the sources of indoor pollution can be eliminated entirely. For example, you can choose not to use your fireplace and ensure that any damp or mould is removed quickly. In other cases, you may be able to reduce exposure to pollutants, for example by switching to milder or more natural cleaning products. Good ventilation can also help to clear out indoor pollution. Houseplants or air purifiers can also remove some pollutants from the air in your home.
Avoiding or reducing air pollution should help to prevent it from triggering your asthma symptoms. Reducing exposure to air pollution can also be important for the rest of your family as these is some evidence that long term exposure to air pollution can increase the chances of developing asthma.