Trying to Breathe During Bad Air

What does air quality have to do with asthma? A lot! It can really make it hard to breathe for those of us with asthma.

There are different types of air quality issues.

PM 2.5 and PM 10

Particulate matter (PM), has different sizes - the most common are PM 2.5 and PM 10.

PM 10 is a much smaller than the size of a human hair and can usually be filtered out by nose hairs.

PM 2.5 is even smaller than that  - a 30th the size of a human hair.

For my fellow science nerds, you can see a graphic from Air Now that shows the size of PM 2.5 and PM 10 versus the size of a human hair. It's pretty cool!

How does it affect us when we breathe in these small particles?

The New York Department of Health says:

"Exposure to fine particles can cause short-term health effects such as eye, nose, throat and lung irritation, coughing, sneezing, runny nose and shortness of breath. Exposure to fine particles can also affect lung function and worsen medical conditions such as asthma and heart disease. Scientific studies have linked increases in daily PM2.5 exposure with increased respiratory and cardiovascular hospital admissions, emergency department visits and deaths."

The other problem is ozone, which can be made worse when the heat acts on Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOC). These emissions come from industries, cars, gas vapors, etc.  The levels are usually worse in the summer (due to the heat), and the levels rise and decline throughout the day, depending on the temperatures.

So, now you've had a science lesson about air quality. I know I'm not nearly as exciting as Bill Nye the Science Guy!

What do we do now that we know about air quality?

Well, if you live in the US, you can find the air quality where you live by visiting Air Now,  - just  select your zip code or state. This is the national map. Some states have their own air quality monitors and apps you can use to check air quality. I use an app on my phone to check PM 2.5 and ozone. My state DEQ (Department of Environmental Quality), also lets people sign up for email alerts. It sends an email alert if the air quality is getting worse.

Air quality is ranked by color - green, yellow, orange, red and purple. Green is the best color, and then it gets worse until it reaches purple.

The email alert will also list health warnings and say that "this air is unhealthy for sensitive groups." Who are sensitive groups?

"........ people with lung disease, older adults and children are at a greater risk from exposure to ozone, whereas persons with heart and lung disease, older adults and children are at greater risk from the presence of particles in the air."

Exercise is important to keep our lungs and strong and healthy. But make sure you are going to be breathing in GOOD air quality before you head outdoors.

Use an app, check with your state DEQ (department of environmental quality,) or check the Air Now website.

Now let's head out and enjoy the outdoors!

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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