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Trouble breathing? Pollution Could be to Blame

Thursday, August 31, 2017 12:01 PM
Tags: allergy,asthma

With the wildfires in Canada, many of us have noticed a change in the air. The cold front most likely allowed the smoke to be transported - causing us to see haze and smell smoke. If you have asthma or respiratory problems, you may notice that symptoms get worse when the air is polluted. It is important to take note when Air Quality Alerts are issued – especially in big cities like Chicago where high pollution levels and hot weather can trigger asthma attacks.


Two key air pollutants can affect asthma. Ozone – which is found in smog – is worse on hot summer days in the afternoon and evenings. Particle pollution – which can happen year round – is usually high near busy roads, during rush hour or when there is smoke in the air from wood stoves, fireplaces or burning vegetation.

Jennifer S. Kim, MD, Allergy & Immunology, says pollution can cause coughing, wheezing, chest discomfort and a burning feeling in the lungs. You can fend off problems by knowing when air pollution is high and following these tips:

  • Plan outdoor activities when air pollution levels are low. In summer, plan vigorous exercise for the early mornings. When ozone levels are high, plan on exercising indoors or lower the intensity of your work-outs.
  • Stay connected with the Environmental Protection Agency for Air Quality Alerts because you cannot always tell when air pollution levels are high.
  • Keep asthma rescue/reliever medications on hand.
  • Stay hydrated and listen to your body.
  • An allergy face mask can help when doing outdoor jobs, such as mowing the lawn.

How do you prepare yourself on days with high pollution?