5 Tips for Managing Poor Air Quality with Asthma

Often, I’m sure I’ve navigated poor air quality with asthma, without knowing the air quality outside sucked. Checking your local air quality regularly, or setting alerts to notify you when air quality is decreasing, is a good way to get a head start on knowing what you’re facing before heading outside. Recently, I finally got a “head start”, having checked the air quality before going out and being able to at least somewhat prepare for being out in moderate-risk air quality with asthma, taking steps to minimize my immediate risk of exacerbating asthma symptoms.

Tips for getting through poor air quality

Navigating poor air quality with asthma can be somewhat similar to getting through heat and humidity—but sometimes with a bit more work or precaution involved.

  1. Monitor your air quality! As I said before, signing up for digital or e-mail alerts, or checking your air quality before you go out is a good habit to get into to avoid surprises. Living in a city with generally stellar air quality myself, it is hard to convince myself to check regularly because I generally know my Air Quality Health Index (a 1-10+ scale, 1 being lowest risk), will be between 1 and 3 and indicate a low risk to people with health conditions. But, it’s still important to check, just like you would the weather!
  2. Stay indoors. Staying inside as much as possible during hot, poor air quality days is the best advice to avoid exposure to particulate matter that may exacerbate asthma and other health conditions.
    Air conditioning is the best relief, so long as your air conditioner pushes hot air out from your living space, and does not draw polluted air inside. If you are in an area with direct exposure to smoke from nearby fires, use of air conditioning may not be advisable—consult your local weather or health authority. 1 If you do not have air conditioning at home, it may be best to visit air-conditioned public spaces. Keep your windows and doors closed as much as possible while attempting to keep your living space cool.
  3. Carry your inhaler. Make sure you have a reliable rescue inhaler if you must go outside. And of course, keep it on hand indoors too in the event symptoms begin after the fact—we all know asthma sneaks up when we least expect it!
  4. Consider pre-medicating. If you are going outside on a poor air quality day, ask your doctor about whether you should use your rescue inhaler prior to exposure outside. (I did not do this the other day, and I really should have!)
  5. Make wise choices about exercise. If you exercise regularly, know your limits and when to limit outdoor exercise or choose alternate activities during poor air quality days. Similarly, in some situations, air quality may be poorest during hottest times of the day, or during rush hours, so exercising outdoors in the early morning or evening may be advisable—it just depends on the source of your air quality woes!

The big question

Should you wear a mask if air quality is poor in the summertime? Generally, the answer is no if you have lung disease 2—I plan to explore why in an upcoming post!

If you are coping with poor air quality, hopefully, these tips help you stay feeling as well as possible—always consult your doctor for direct instructions when facing situations that you are unsure of, including smoke and poor air quality.

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