Poor air quality can cause more than a sniffle

If you have occasional coughing, sneezing, dry skin, headaches, and shortness of breath, check your air quality forecast.

Poor air quality, sometimes caused by air pollution, can make the air you breathe very unhealthy.

What would you like to know

  • Sensitive groups can get seriously ill from unhealthy air
  • Air pollution can even trigger heart attacks
  • Pay attention to air quality alerts and daily unhealthy air forecasts

Major health problems

Poor air quality can lead to more than coughing and sneezing. If you have asthma, lung disease, bronchitis, or any other breathing problem, unhealthy air is especially harmful.

Heart disease is also a major problem, and air pollution can trigger heart attacks, irregular heartbeats, and strokes.

According to AirNow, a website that combines federal and local agencies that monitor air quality, air pollution can affect people with heart failure and reduce the heart’s ability to pump blood normally.

If a person has asthma, two main air pollutants can make it worse or trigger an attack.

Ozone and particulate pollution can make a person with asthma or lung disease more likely to have symptoms. Ozone in smog and particulate air pollution in haze, smoke and dust trigger the most attacks.

When is it bad?

During hot summer days, ozone is worst, especially in the afternoon and early evening. Particulate pollution is generally bad all year round and when the weather is calm. On calm days, air pollution builds up and particulates can increase.

According to AirNow, particle levels will rise near busy roads when there is smoke in the air and around factories or during peak hours.


Here are some tips that can help you stay safe when the air is unhealthy:

• Find the air quality forecast for your area using the Spectrum app or the website for alerts or you can visit airnow.gov

• Use the Air Quality Index to plan your daily activities if you have breathing problems (see table below)

• Pay attention to your symptoms when you are physically active.

Stay proactive and aware of your air quality. When you find yourself in an unhealthy air, take precautions.

If you see an air quality alert for your area, plan your day accordingly and try not to be outside for long periods of time.

(EPA Photo / Airnow.gov)

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About Gail Mena

Gail Mena

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