Breathing Matters: Coping with Allergies and Asthma

~ By John Streit, MPH, RRT ~

When we think of the Rocky Mountains, we all picture clean crisp air that is refreshing and great to breathe. While this is true for the most part of Colorado, there are some areas where the aspects of air quality that can affect our breathing. The quality of the air we breathe, indoors and out, can affect our lung health. Airborne pollutants such as car exhaust, secondhand smoke, paint fumes, and mold can damage fragile lung tissue. Poor air quality has been related to decreased lung function and is significant in triggering asthma flare-ups among those that suffer from this disease.

Air pollution is of growing concern in the State of Colorado with the increases of industry and population growth that have been realized in the past few decades. Outdoor air pollution is caused by small particles and ground level ozone that comes from car exhaust, smoke, road dust, and factory emissions. In the urban areas of the Front Range in Colorado, these concentrations of pollutants can reach levels that are aggravating to those that deal with asthma, and other respiratory illnesses. The heightened levels of pollutants have been associated with increased hospital admissions due to related lung disease symptoms.

To protect yourself from the associated triggers that can affect asthma symptoms, it is important to check local air quality information, which can be accessed at http://www.colorado.gov/airquality/air_quality.aspx. We can all make a difference in reducing the amount of air pollution that impacts Colorado air quality by utilizing alternate forms of transportation such as carpooling, riding the bus, or walking since we are moving into the warmer months of spring and summer. With the onset of warm weather, high pollen counts that are often a trigger for asthma are of concern to reducing flare-ups. To address this concern:

  • Close the windows and run the air conditioning at home and in the car
  • Wear a pollen mask during a prolonged stays outdoors
  • Change your clothes when you come inside
  • Don’t hang clothing or linens outside to dry
  • Take a shower and wash or rinse your hair before going to bed
  • Make sure you are taking allergy medications as directed by your physician

Outdoor air quality is not the only thing that can affect our lungs however, as some of the worst air pollution comes from the inside−not the outside. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency ranked indoor air pollution among the top four environmental risks to the public. If you suffer from allergies, the air that you breathe at home might be part of the problem.

Some steps you can take to protect your indoor air quality environment include:

  • Avoiding secondhand smoke
  • Maintain lower indoor humidity
  • Vacuuming carpets frequently using a high-efficiency vacuum bag.

By taking some simple steps you can help to prevent allergy symptoms, asthma triggers, in addition to protecting your lungs from harmful pollutants. If we all do our part, we can surely enjoy the clean Colorado Mountain air!

For more information on lung health, call the American Lung Association Lung
HelpLine at 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-548-8252) to speak to someone directly, or submit a question online. We’re here to answer your lung health questions!!
Breathing Matters is presented by the Colorado Lung Health Connection http://www.lunghealthco.org.

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