ASTHMA AND OUTDOOR AIR POLLUTION
1 Air pollution can make asthma • Also notice any asthma symptoms that
symptoms worse and trigger attacks. begin up to a day after you have been
outdoors in polluted air. Air pollution
If you or your child has asthma, have you can make you more sensitive to asthma
ever noticed symptoms get worse when triggers, like mold and dust mites. If
the air is polluted? Air pollution can make you are more sensitive than usual to
it harder to breathe. It can also cause other indoor asthma triggers, it could be
symptoms, like coughing, wheezing, chest due to air pollution outdoors.
discomfort, and a burning feeling in the
lungs. Know when and where air pollution may
Two key air pollutants can affect asthma.
One is ozone (found in smog). The other is • Ozone is often worst on hot summer
particle pollution (found in haze, smoke, and days, especially in the afternoons and
dust). When ozone and particle pollution early evenings.
are in the air, adults and children with • Particle pollution can be bad any
asthma are more likely to have symptoms. time of year, even in winter. It can be
especially bad when the weather is calm,
allowing air pollution to build up.
2 You can take steps to help protect Particle levels can also be high:
your health from air pollution. — Near busy roads, during rush hour,
Get to know how sensitive you are to air and around factories.
pollution. — When there is smoke in the air from
• Notice your asthma symptoms when you wood stoves, fireplaces, or burning
are physically active. Do they happen vegetation.
more often when the air is more polluted?
If so, you may be sensitive to air pollution.
Plan activities when and where pollution • If you have symptoms during a certain
levels are lower. Regular exercise is type of activity, ask your health care
important for staying healthy, especially provider if you should follow an asthma
for people with asthma. By adjusting when action plan.
and where you exercise, you can lead a
healthy lifestyle and help reduce your
3 Get up-to-date information about
asthma symptoms when the air is polluted.
In summer, plan your most vigorous your local air quality:
activities for the morning. Try to exercise Sometimes you can tell that the air is
away from busy roads or industrial areas. polluted—for example, on a smoggy or
On hot, smoggy days when ozone levels hazy day. But often you can’t. In many
are high, think about exercising indoors. areas, you can find air quality forecasts
and reports on local TV or radio. These
Change your activity level. When the air reports use the Air Quality Index, or AQI,
is polluted, try to take it easier if you are a simple color scale, to tell you how
active outdoors. This will reduce how clean or polluted the air is. You can also
much pollution you breathe. Even if you find these reports on the Internet at:
can’t change your schedule, you might be www.epa.gov/airnow. You can use the AQI
able to change your activity so it is less to plan your activities each day to help
intense. For example, go for a walk reduce your asthma symptoms.
instead of a jog. Or, spend less time
on the activity. For example, jog for
20 minutes instead of 30. 4 For more information:
Air quality and health:
Listen to your body. If you get asthma
• EPA’s AIRNow website at
symptoms when the air is polluted, stop your
activity. Find another, less intense activity.
• Call 1-800-490-9198 to request free EPA
Keep your quick-relief medicine on hand brochures on: Ozone and Your Health,
when you’re active outdoors. That way, Particle Pollution and Your Health, and Air
if you do have symptoms, you’ll be Quality Index: A Guide to Air Quality and
prepared. This is especially important Your Health.
if you’re starting a new activity that is Asthma:
more intense than you are used to.
• Centers for Disease Control and
Consult your health care provider. If you Prevention (CDC) Web site at
have asthma symptoms when the air is www.cdc.gov/asthma
polluted, talk with your health care Indoor air and asthma:
• EPA’s asthma website at
• If you will be exercising more than www.epa.gov/asthma
usual, discuss this with your health care
provider. Ask whether you should use
medicine before you start outdoor