Here's how asthmatics can manage smog and pollution triggers

By Dr Vivek Nangia
December 05, 2022, Updated on : Mon Dec 05 2022 01:56:33 GMT+0000
Here's how asthmatics can manage smog and pollution triggers
While poor or severe air quality affects everyone, people with chronic respiratory problems like asthma and COPD are worse off.
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Smog and air pollution pose a significant and pressing public health risk by causing diseases such as lung cancer, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, respiratory infections, stroke, and heart disease. According to World Health Organisation, approximately seven million people die each year because of fine particulate pollution. The rise in air pollution is caused due to a combination of factors, and stubble burning is just one of them.


These airborne particles or pollutants, found in haze, smoke, and airborne dust, pose serious air quality issues, especially for people with chronic respiratory problems like asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).


The higher levels of air pollution irritate airways, worsen lung function, aggravate symptoms, and even lead to hospitalisation in patients suffering from respiratory diseases. Furthermore, breathing polluted air and overexposure to air pollutants can irritate the airways, resulting in shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, asthma attacks, and chest pain.

Air Pollution

India faces serious challenge of severe air pollution

Air pollution and asthma

While long-term exposure to air pollutants can cause irreversible lung damage and is a risk factor for chronic inflammatory lung disorders such as COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), it is not a direct cause of asthma.


However, since asthmatics have hypersensitive airways, polluted air further causes inflammation and narrowing of the airways, resulting in coughing, wheezing, and even shortness of breath. Smog, like other air pollutants, can cause irritation in the eyes, throat, and even the lungs. Asthmatics are particularly vulnerable because irritants and pollutants in smog can aggravate asthma symptoms such as difficulty breathing, asthma attacks, and chest pain.

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Role of Inhalers

Inhalers are critical in combating asthma triggers and sudden exacerbations caused by rising pollutants in the air, such as fine particulate matter. Inhalers help effectively deliver medication directly to the small airways and lungs, relaxing the muscles that are irritated and inflamed because of pollutants, making it easier to breathe.

Patients are prescribed different types of inhalers according to their condition, such as long-term control medications like inhaled corticosteroids, which are regularly taken to control symptoms and prevent attacks.

To further safeguard from a sudden attack, doctors may also recommend asthmatics use quick relief medications or rescue inhalers which contain fast-acting medication which opens airways. Proper patient education and training in inhaler use significantly improve medication delivery and symptom control in patients with asthma.

Tips for asthmatics

With rising levels of air pollution resulting in deteriorating air quality, prevention and precaution are critical for those suffering from respiratory illnesses, particularly asthma. Since asthma’s triggers can change over time, consulting a doctor is crucial in developing the best treatment plan possible.


Below are a few other key points to remember that can help one to manage asthma during elevated levels of air pollution:

  • Prepare an emergency action plan in consultation with the doctor—understand what to do immediately if asthma symptoms appear.
  • Having an asthma action plan in place in consultation with your doctor that is specific to your workplace, lifestyle, and environment is extremely important.
  • Asthmatics should avoid going outside when the air quality is particularly poor, and when going out, they should keep an eye on the air quality index levels.
  • Wearing a mask is one of the most effective ways to check inhalation of pollutants, dust, germs, and other components that can irritate the airways and harm one's overall health. People with asthma should wear masks when going outside and dispose of them promptly, or wash and reuse them if reusable.
  • Pollution frequently causes dehydration, which causes the lining of your airways and sinuses to become dry, resulting in asthma or other symptoms like headache and nausea. As a result, it is critical for asthmatics to stay hydrated and consume fluids.
  • A healthy and strong immune system aids in the prevention of pollution-induced asthma flare-ups. Vitamin C, magnesium, and omega-3 fatty acids should be included in the diet to help strengthen the immune system. Adding foods like ginger, garlic, yoghurt, green leafy vegetables, and eggs also helps.

Edited by Kanishk Singh

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

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