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Poor Air Quality and Your Health

 

How can poor air quality affect my health?

Smog can affect your health in different ways and the effects can range in severity. Health impacts of smog can include:

  • eye, nose and throat irritation
  • coughing and wheezing
  • increased allergy attacks
  • an increase in and a worsening of asthma attacks
  • breathing difficulty
  • reduced lung capacity
  • lowered resistance to infections
  • increased heart and lung conditions
  • hospitalizations
  • premature death

What can I do to protect my health when the air quality is bad?

On poor air quality days, you can protect your health in the following ways:

  • Check the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) daily and plan outdoor activities accordingly.
  • Avoid strenuous outdoor work and/or exercise in the heat of the day.
  • Avoid being outside during peak rush hour time or around high traffic areas to reduce exposure to smog.
  • Be aware of the AQI levels and plan accordingly.
  • See your doctor if you experience symptoms such as tightness in the chest, coughing and/or wheezing

Whom does poor air quality affect?

Poor air quality can affect everyone but certain groups of people face a greater health risk. These groups are:

Children

 

Why do children face a greater health risk from poor air quality?

Children are at a greater health risk from poor air quality because they:

  • Spend more time outdoors being physically active.
  • Take in more air than adults because they breathe faster.
  • Are more susceptible to infections than adults. Smog can reduce the respiratory system's ability to fight infection and remove foreign particles. This can increase and worsen the symptoms of childhood asthma and allergies.

How can you protect children when there is a high AQHI reading?

  • Check the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) daily and plan outdoor activities accordingly.
  • Reduce the amount of time children spend outdoors playing, working and exercising when a smog watch or advisory has been issued.
  • Avoid having children outdoors during peak rush hour periods and around high traffic zones.
  • During periods of poor air quality, plan activities for children that can be done indoors in a cool, well ventilated place.
  • Postpone any "must be outside" activities if possible to another time when the advisory is over.
  • To reduce exposure to smog, children with asthma and allergies should avoid being outside.

Seniors

 

Why do seniors face a greater health risk from poor air quality?

  • Seniors face greater health risks from poor air quality because it can aggravate existing heart and lung conditions.
  • Seniors with existing heart conditions and lung problems such as asthma, emphysema and chronic bronchitis may feel their symptoms increase and worsen due to air pollutants.
  • The risk of a senior becoming sick is also increased because the respiratory system's ability to fight infections is decreased.
  • Air pollutants reduces the lungs’ working capacity which makes breathing increasingly difficult.

How can seniors protect themselves when there is a high AQHI reading?

  • Check the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) daily and plan outdoor activities accordingly.
  • Avoid physical stress and activity during periods of poor air quality.
  • Postpone outdoor work and strenuous activity.
  • Stay indoors in a well-ventilated area.
  • Avoid areas around traffic congestion and rush hour peak times.
  • Seek medical attention if you feel tightness in your chest or shortness of breath.
  • If you have to be outside, plan activities early in the morning when pollution levels are low.

People with allergies, asthma and/or heart or lung conditions



Why do people with allergies, asthma and/or heart or lung conditions face a greater health risk from poor air quality?

This group of individuals can experience adverse health effects at lower levels of air pollution than healthy adults. A small increase in air pollution can make symptoms more severe.

How can people with allergies, asthma and/or heart or lung conditions protect themselves when there is a high AQHI reading?

  • Check the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) daily and plan outdoor activities accordingly.
  • Avoid physical stress and activity during periods of poor air quality.
  • Stay indoors in a well-ventilated area.
  • Avoid areas around traffic congestion and rush hour peak times.
  • Seek medical attention if you feel tightness in your chest or shortness of breath.
  • If you have to be outside, plan activities early in the morning when pollution levels are low.

People who work or exercise outdoors

 

Why do people who work or exercise outdoors face a greater health risk from poor air quality?

People who work or exercise outdoors are outside for extended periods of time and are in turn exposed to air pollutants for a longer period of time.

What you can do to protect people who work or exercise outdoors against air pollutants?

  • Check the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) daily and plan outdoor activities accordingly.
  • Avoid physical stress and activity.
  • Postpone outdoor work and strenuous activity.
  • Stay indoors in a well-ventilated area.
  • Avoid areas around traffic congestion and rush hour peak times.
  • If you have to be outside, plan activities early in the morning when pollution levels are low.
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Revised: Wednesday July 15 2015

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