6 steps to protect you and your child from the effects of smog
We traditionally think of asthma as causing wheezing and shortness of breath, but in young children in particular the main symptom can be coughing. Symptoms can also be brought on by sudden changes in temperature, exercise, having a cold or being exposed to things you’re allergic to (such as dust or pollen).
Factors that make it more likely in a child, are due to having symptoms just at certain situations:
- after exercise
- exposure to pets or cold weather
- having symptoms just at night or in the early mornings
- having a history of eczema, hay fever or food allergy
- a family history of asthma or any of these ‘atopic’ conditions
What is smog?
- Smog is a dense layer of stagnant air which forms near ground level when air pollution is high. It is more common in built-up cities with dense traffic or in areas near industry with high emissions.
- Smog is made up mainly of ozone but it also contains other harmful substances, such as sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and PM10s (small molecules which can find their way deep into our lungs).
How does smog affect your health?
According to Asthma UK, about two thirds of people with asthma find that pollution triggers their symptoms. High levels of pollution have been linked to an increased risk of asthma attacks and low peak-flow readings, so it’s important for asthmatics to keep their inhalers at hand during smog attacks.
How can you protect yourself from smog?
- Keep up to date with weather forecasts and smog throughout the year. You can find a daily update on air quality at the Air Quality website. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) also has the latest information and includes a useful colour-coded summary of the current situation in all areas of the UK. If you’re travelling and want to know about how smog might affect you in Europe, the European Environment Agency maintains an ozone map on its website.
- If the air quality forecast is poor, where possible, avoid the affected areas. If this is too difficult, stay indoors and keep your windows closed.
- Avoid exercising in smoggy conditions, particularly at midday when ground ozone levels are at their highest. Try to change the times you exercise to morning or evening (avoiding rush hour), or exercise inside.
- If you’re asthmatic or have COPD, carry your inhaler at all times. If you notice any rapid deterioration in your condition, consult your doctor.
- If you have respiratory conditions and need to travel on smoggy days, avoid congested areas where you may get stuck in traffic jams. Road junctions can be a hotbed of exhaust emissions so keep your windows closed.
- Keep your own emissions to a minimum. Avoid unnecessary car journeys in cities, don’t rev up or leave your engine running for a long time outside your home on cold days or when stuck in traffic jams.