How to stay safe in poor air quality
Modern life has many factors that degrade air quality, such as the prevalent city pollution. Also, unforeseen disasters exacerbate the problem, such as the wildfire smoke in New York City a few months ago. Taal Volcano’s recent eruption in the Philippines worsened nearby air quality, and Metro Manila has growing air pollution.
That is why staying safe in poor air quality should be our number one priority. Prolonged exposure can lead to pulmonary conditions, and those with preexisting ones could worsen their symptoms. Fortunately, there are simple ways to protect your health amidst widespread smog worldwide.
This article will discuss protecting yourself from poor air quality, such as wearing a mask and staying hydrated. I will only include basic information, so consult a doctor if you have any serious conditions related to air quality.
The 7 ways to protect yourself from poor air quality
- Stay indoors as much as possible.
- Wear a mask.
- Use air conditioning and a purifier.
- Stay hydrated and wash your clothes.
- Avoid prolonged or heavy physical activity.
- Monitor the air quality index daily.
- Check on loved ones who are sensitive to poor air quality.
1. Stay indoors as much as possible.
The simplest way to protect yourself from poor air quality is to stay indoors. After all, that will prevent you from inhaling potentially harmful substances like traffic smoke.
Of course, you should avoid spreading airborne particles that could irritate your lungs. For example, don’t paint indoors or use hairspray to maintain indoor air quality.
If you must cook in your kitchen, turn on an electric fan nearby to blow away smoke. More importantly, close doors and windows to keep airborne irritants out.
2. Wear a mask.
Dr. Harry Kopolovich, Hackensack Meridian Health emergency medicine physician, said, “A well-fitting N95 mask can filter over 95% of fine particulate matter.” Hence, you should wear one if you’re sensitive to poor air quality.
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The “N” in “N95” is its Respirator Rating Letter Class, which means “non-oil.” That means it works if there are no oil particulates around. Meanwhile, the “95” is the amount of 0.3-micron particles it will block out every 100.
These terms mean an N95 mask filters out 95% of air particles. On the other hand, you could try a more unique solution, the Dyson Zone Headphones.
The company famous for its vacuum cleaners released headphones with a face mask and filter attachment. It could be a great option if you’re an audiophile wading through poor air quality.
3. Use air conditioning and a purifier.
Modern air conditioning units have a “re-circulate” function that prevents bringing in air from outdoors. That is why you should turn them on if there’s smog outside.
Air conditioning also prevents indoor temperatures from rising. According to the County of Sonoma website, excessive heat can worsen the effects of poor air quality.
Heat causes people to breathe more heavily, straining their lungs. Also, you should consider buying a HEPA air purifier. The EPA says a High-Efficiency Particulate Air filter reduces 99.97% of airborne particles.
4. Stay hydrated and wash your clothes.
Smog can irritate airways, causing you to have a dry, scratchy throat. That is why you should keep yourself hydrated constantly. However, depending on your area, you may need to wash your clothes after going outside.
For example, Philippine air quality worsened at the time of writing due to Taal Volcano’s eruption. That means particles could stick to your clothes and spread in your home.
Dr. Kopolovich says, “Make sure you take the clothing you wear outside off in a separate area of your home because that [particulate material] is going to stay in your skin, hair, and clothing. People spending prolonged periods of time outside for work should wash these clothes separately from the rest of the household laundry.
5. Avoid prolonged or heavy physical activity.
Physical activity strains your lungs, making coping with poor air quality more difficult. That is why University of Waterloo associate professor Rebecca Saari said most people should avoid it in poor air quality.
“As the weather continues to rise in ambient temperature, we definitely want people to be mindful that exertion in warm weather, especially when there’s poor air quality, can lead to disastrous outcomes,” Dr. Kopolovich adds.
You could replace your outdoor routine with indoor exercises to continue your fitness goals. Also, improve your gains with a fitness app or tracker like the Apple Watch.
6. Monitor the air quality index daily.
Air quality is reported using the Air Quality Index (AQI). Do you know what these numbers and their corresponding levels mean? View the chart below to find out. To see the current air quality in your area, visit https://t.co/CVx9g8HTQY pic.twitter.com/TGvaWtOCJ3
— National Weather Service (@NWS) June 8, 2023
The Air Quality Index is a rating system that measures air quality from 0 to 500. The American Lung Association says it involves a complex calculation administered by the US Environmental Protection Agency.
The ALA website says an AQI below 100 is usually safe. However, that depends on whether you have a specific health condition. It also has a color rating to facilitate reading AQI.
For example, green means it’s safe to breathe, but yellow and beyond means those with lung conditions must wear respirators. Read the chart above for more information. Also, follow sites like IQAir to get free AQI updates for your area daily.
7. Check on loved ones who are sensitive to poor air quality.
The American Lung Association recommends checking loved ones in the “sensitive group.” The latter includes children under 18, old folks, diabetics, pregnant women, and people with chronic lung and heart disease.
The sensitive group also includes daily exercisers and outdoor workers because of their prolonged exposure. Moreover, you should confirm whether you fit in that category if you experience unique symptoms of poor air quality.
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For example, you should check your health if your chest hurts while walking outdoors. Share these tips with someone who may struggle with poor air quality.
Air quality worldwide is worsening due to numerous factors. That is why everyone should keep themselves safe with basic precautions like wearing respirators.
This article does not provide medical advice. Consult a doctor if you have a preexisting condition or severe symptoms to receive immediate attention.
Some recent innovations have unique ways of purifying air, such as the genetically modified Neoplants. Learn more about the latest digital tips and trends at Inquirer Tech.
Frequently asked questions about poor air quality
What causes poor air quality?
Pollution is one of the leading causes of poor air quality in cities. Much of it comes from automobile emissions, factory smoke, and other human activities. However, natural disasters like volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, and wildfires may degrade outdoor air.
What causes poor indoor air quality?
Indoor air quality drops due to cleaning products and stored chemicals. Also, lighting fireplaces and stoves may exacerbate air quality, so it’s best to have an indoor air purification system. You should also refrain from smoking at home to avoid leaving soot in the air.
What are the effects of poor air quality?
Poor air quality can reduce visibility and aesthetics in an outdoor environment. For example, overwhelming smog makes Metro Manila look considerably darker and sadder nowadays. Moreover, air pollution raises everyone’s risk of lung and heart disease. Those with preexisting health conditions may experience worse symptoms.