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10 Tips for Battling Air Pollution and Staying Healthy

Posted May 23 2013 10:23am

Our air quality, in spite of the efforts we are making toward reducing pollution and carbon footprints, is not great. In some places it is downright bad. So how do you get through? How do you keep poor air quality from having a detrimental effect on your health?

1. Your nose is your friend

Your nose acts as a natural air filter to keep gross stuff out of your lungs. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth to keep the air pollution at bay.

2. Avoid peak pollution hours

Get outside in the mornings if you can. Ozone (the biggest portion of what we call “smog”) is what happens when sunlight causes a reaction in the pollutants that are in the air. So get out in the mornings while the sun is still rising—before those reactions have a chance to happen.

3. Exercise indoors in summer

Air pollution is at its height during the summer months (because of the reaction with ozone we already talked about). During these months, it can be difficult to get out before the sun comes up because of just how long the days are. Get around this issue by doing your workouts indoors during the summer months.

4. Use side streets

If you’re going for a jog, stay off of the major thoroughfares. Major roads see more automotive traffic, which means there is more junk for you to breathe in. Stick to the side roads, where there is less traffic (and more space for your run) so you reduce your chances of harming your lungs.

To reduce your chances of harm even further, stick to dedicated running and bicycle paths, where automobiles are not allowed to travel.

5. Wear a mask

It might feel silly, but wearing a mask can really cut down on the amount of pollution you are able to inhale. Use a N95-rated mask for the best protection possible.

6. Don’t forget about “natural pollution”

If you have allergies, you already know how problematic pollen and mold can be. Even if you don’t have allergies, these things can affect you. To keep your lungs healthy, check the pollen count for your area before you head outside to make sure it’s not at a harmful level.

7. Check the air quality

It’s not hard to check the air quality for your area. Check the air quality before you head outside. If it is a bad air quality day, plan to work out at the gym or inside instead of outside.

8. Pay attention to your breathing

Are you coughing more than usual? Do you have the sniffles even though you aren’t actually sick? If you notice that you’re coughing, sniffling, wheezing, or short of breath more than usual, call your doctor. You might have allergies or be developing asthma or any number of other issues—most of which can be treated with medication (and some common sense).

9. Breezy days are your friend

On a warm still day, pollution just hangs in the air. These are days to stay inside. A good breeze, though, can disperse the pollution and reduce its concentration—making it easier for you to breathe well.

10. Rain helps

Common sense says not to run in the rain (or right after it rains) because surfaces are slick and you are more likely to slip and fall. So don’t run during or immediately after a rain, but try to get your run in before everything has completely dried off. Rain washes the gunk out of the air. You want to get out there before it has a chance to build back up.

Good luck!

Erin Steiner is a freelance writer from Oregon and has written extensively about health, how to remove personal information from the internet, reputation management, and other topics.

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