The official blog of the Lung Institute.
Air quality refers to the state of the air all around us. It is the degree to which the air is pollution-free, and it’s determined by measuring pollutants. Pollutants are unwanted chemicals found in the air, at high enough concentrations to endanger health. Emissions are discharges from places like factories or vehicles, which are released in the air. These factors, along with ozone, also known as smog, are the greatest contributors to outdoor air quality. It is easy to understand the importance of air quality for lung disease sufferers.
Due to pollution and environmental factors, air quality can be an issue outdoors. And indoors, air quality can be a problem due to chemicals, mold, pet dander and more.
What is the Importance of Air Quality for Lung Disease Sufferers?
For people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and really any form of lung disease, ozone and pollution can worsen coughing and wheezing, and contribute to shortness of breath. In fact, air pollution can even cause people to need a doctor’s visit or trip to the hospital.
Ozone reacts chemically with the body’s tissues, such as those in the lungs. When it’s at higher levels, such as during the summer, it irritates and inflames the respiratory system Breathing in ozone can cause shortness of breath, chest pain, an increased risk for asthma attacks or exacerbations, hospitalization and even premature death.
Air quality also affects people with heart disease, which often overlaps with COPD. Particle pollution can contribute to heart attacks, stroke, cardiac arrest and congestive heart failure. Ozone is also harmful to the heart.
Check Your Air Quality
You can check your town’s air quality index (AQI) using this online tool. You can search by zip code, or by state. The website also provides a quick guide to what the numbers mean. AQI values run from low to high. If the AQI value is higher, there is more pollution in the air and more concern for people’s health and well being.
It is important to be proactive. If there is a poor air quality during the day, try to stay indoors. Also adjust how many outdoor activities you are doing, and this will reduce the amount of pollution you’re breathing in.
Indoor Air Quality Matters Too
Indoor air quality also contributes to COPD. Dust, irritants and chemicals can build up in your home. People with COPD usually spend a lot of time indoors, and it’s important to do so on days when outdoor air quality is comprised. Thus, it’s also important to improve your indoor air quality. The following are some tips to do so:
Keep your floors clean, vacuum often and invest in a good-quality vacuum cleaner. Mop your floors, but try not to use chemical-laden cleaners.
Dust and mold like humidity. Use a de-humidifier, keep your exhaust fan going when cooking and fix leaks so mold doesn’t grow.
Test for Radon
Radon is a radioactive gas that can be in the ground naturally, and it contributes to lung cancer. It can get in your home from the foundation. You can get a radon test kit at any home improvement store.
Use natural cleaning products, fragrance-free products and avoid aerosol sprays.
Purify the Air
Indoor plants such as a fern, spider or aloe vera can help purify your air. You can also use an air purifying machine.
Though these are small measures, they can help immensely with air quality. Another thing you can do is stay away from smoke. Even though you hopefully have quit smoking, try to avoid smoky places or secondhand smoke (especially indoors).