How pollution can affect people with asthma

People with asthma can be affected by outdoor and indoor pollutants. Inhaling polluted air can trigger breathing difficulties and bring on asthma attacks. City living, cars, buses, airplanes, as well as industry and construction cause air pollution. In the country, however, dust from tractors ploughing fields, trucks and cars driving on dirt or gravel roads, rock quarries and smoke from wood and crop fires also cause air pollution.

Pollution and the affects on asthmaAir pollution can be defined as “any visible or invisible particle or gas found in the air that is not part of the natural composition of air”. You may also find that breathing problems worsen when the air pollution is high. Particles found in pollutants are small enough to get into your lungs, making your airways inflamed and swollen which can bring on asthma symptoms.

The pollutants above consist of:

  • Ozone ? one of the most common air pollutants is produced when exhaust pollution from cars and trucks reacts with oxygen and sunlight. This can become a big problem in cities with lots of traffic. It is also more common in the summer when there is more sunlight and low winds.
  • Carbon monoxide ? occurs primarily from emissions produced by fossil fuel powered engines.
  • Sulphur dioxide ? is produced when coal and crude oil are burned.
  • Lead ? primarily comes from lead smelters, metal processing plants and incinerators.
  • Particulate matter ? There are a wide range of particulate matter pollutants which include dust, diesel exhaust particles, cigarette smoke, wood smoke and sulphate aerosols. All of these are suspended as tiny particles in the air and these particles can then become lodged in the lungs and trigger asthma symptoms.
  • Indoor pollutants - These can include mould and fungi which grow in damp or high moisture conditions and decaying organic matter, which can also affect asthma suffers.

It is advisable that if you suffer from asthma that you should limit your exposure to air pollution if that triggers your asthma symptoms. Always carry your reliever inhaler with you so that you can act quickly to the onset of symptoms and remember that taking your preventer inhaler routinely as prescribed means you are less likely to react to your asthma triggers.

Sources used in writing this article are available on request

Information contained in this Articles page has been written by talkhealth based on available medical evidence. Our evidence-based articles are certified by the Information Standard and our sources are available on request. The content is not, though, written by medical professionals and should never be considered a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek medical advice before changing your treatment routine. talkhealth does not endorse any specific products, brands, or treatments.

Information written by the talkhealth team

Last revised: 30 May 2018

Next review: 30 May 2021