Protecting yourself from poor air quality

Published 11:38 am Tuesday, August 22, 2023

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For most of the week, an air quality alert is in effect for the East Tennessee region, as temperatures will remain close to 90 degrees or above. According to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC), the alert means the air quality in the region most days this week may be unhealthy for sensitive groups.
Sensitive groups include those with lung diseases like asthma, elderly people, children and those active outdoors. The TDEC recommends anyone with breathing sensitivities reduce prolonged outdoor exertion, watch for a cough or shortness of breath to develop, and keep any needed respiratory medication handy.
Heat waves and poor air quality often go hand-in-hand because lingering high pressure creates a stagnant environment When this happens, air pollutants remain captured, and pollutants’ density increase.
The hotter the day and the more intense the sun, the more ozone is formed. Ozone is a very active oxidant, which exacerbates lung disease such as asthma and can cause breathing difficulties even in healthy individuals.
It means if you don’t have to be outside, don’t, stay indoors. Hot summer temperatures can add to the air quality problem. This is because heat and stagnant heat wave can lead to ground level ozone pollution to build up. Unhealthy air quality can be scary, but the Air Quality Index is a valuable tool to help you stay safe.
High risk groups include children under 18, the elderly, people with chronic heart or lung disease, pregnant people, and people with diabetes. Adults who are active outdoors, including outdoor workers and avid exercisers, can be considered at higher risk as well because of prolonged exposure. All these groups are most likely to be the first to experience the effects of ozone and particle pollution, so they need to take extra steps to protect themselves from harm.
Air pollution can threaten anyone’s health, so it’s important on days when there is an air quality alert to reduce the time you spend outdoors to under 30 minutes and reduce the intensity of outdoor activity. According to the EPA, the chances of being affected by unhealthy levels of air pollution increase the longer a person is active outdoors and the more strenuous the activity.
If you must go outdoors, consider wearing a mask.
Keep the windows closed and use central air conditioning, if available. There may also be a benefit of filters in individual air conditioning units. In cars, people should keep the windows closed and air conditioning on.
Healthy people have a greater reserve than patients with chronic diseases, but even they may develop symptoms. And if you develop any of these symptoms, take similar precautions, such as limiting outdoor activities, air conditioning, and masking. And call your doctor if symptoms are persistent and bothersome.
Some relief is in sight at the end of the week when temperatures are expected to cool a bit, and there is a chance of rain. Until then, stay inside and stay cool.

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