For most of us, pollution is just smoke-filled skies that are most commonly witnessed during this time of the year. You may rest easy on the assurance that it will get better. If you take it casually and think it won’t affect you, your health or the health of your loved ones, you are mistaken.
Air pollution is a serious issue that you need to give greater attention to.
When we talk about air pollution, what usually comes to mind are images of smog-choked cities and factories belching out plumes of noxious fumes. While these are undoubtedly pressing issues, there are several subtle, often overlooked, yet harmful consequences of air pollution that can impact our health and well-being. In this blog, we’ll dive into these hidden dangers and why it’s essential to take them seriously.
But before we begin, let’s cover the basics, shall we?
Smog, a portmanteau of “smoke” and “fog,” is a noxious atmospheric mixture typically found in urban areas. It results from the interaction of air pollutants, such as vehicle emissions and industrial exhaust, with natural elements like sunlight and moisture. Smog can manifest as a thick, hazy, and often noxious fog that obscures visibility and can have adverse health effects.
Smog comprises ground-level ozone, particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, ammonia, and various hazardous compounds. Its exact composition varies by location and pollution sources.
Smog is a health and environmental concern, causing multiple health issues. which we will be talking about briefly now.
Harmful effects of smog
A red flag for your lungs:
Air pollution isn’t just about visible smoke and smog; it’s also about microscopic particles that can enter your lungs and wreak havoc. Particulate matter, especially PM2.5 (particles smaller than 2.5 micrometres), can bypass your body’s defences and lodge deep within your respiratory system, leading to a range of respiratory issues, from irritation and coughing to more severe conditions like asthma and bronchitis.
Brain fog and cognitive decline:
Believe it or not, air pollution doesn’t just harm your body; it can also affect your brain. Studies have shown that there may be some cognitive diseases associated with air pollution. Air pollution can cause cognitive decline and an increased risk of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. So, those seemingly innocent strolls in the park in air pollution might not be as refreshing for your mind as you thought .
Allergies on the rise:
If you’ve noticed your allergy symptoms worsening, air pollution could be to blame. Pollutants in the air can worsen allergy symptoms, making you reach for that tissue box more often than you’d like.
Don’t be surprised if you’re suddenly dealing with more skin issues than usual. Air pollution can clog your pores, cause inflammation, and accelerate the ageing process. You may have more acne, develop hypertension and dull skin.
The connection between air pollution and sleep disruption is one you might not have considered. Poor air quality can lead to respiratory problems, which, in turn, can cause sleep disturbances. And if you’re not getting your beauty sleep, your health and mood will pay the price.
Air pollution doesn’t discriminate when it comes to your health. It can take a toll on your cardiovascular system too. Long-term exposure has been linked to heart attacks, strokes, and other heart-related issues. So, now that you have established the link between air pollution and health issues, there’s no way you can take it lightly.
If you’re trying to start a family, consider this: air pollution can negatively impact fertility. For both men and women, it can affect reproductive health and increase the time it takes to conceive. So, if you’re struggling with fertility issues, your local air quality might be a hidden culprit.
Kids at risk:
Children are especially susceptible to the harmful effects of air pollution. Their developing bodies and rapidly growing organs make them more vulnerable to its impacts. The health issues caused by air pollution can affect them for a lifetime, so it’s crucial to protect our little ones.
We’ve talked about the general impact on your respiratory system, but the harmful effects of air pollution on your lungs deserve a closer look. It’s not just a matter of coughing and wheezing; long-term exposure can lead to chronic respiratory conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and can worsen existing conditions like asthma.
Air pollution doesn’t stop at your lungs; it can also affect your vision. Fine particulate matter in the air can irritate your eyes, leading to conditions like dry eyes, redness, and discomfort. Prolonged exposure may even increase the risk of more severe eye diseases. It’s like facing an endless gust of wind that makes your eyes water and your vision blur.
How to stay protected from air pollution?
The obvious answer would be, stay indoors. But it won’t be possible for everyone, given our personal and professional commitments. In such a case, you must wear masks when you step out. In addition to that, focus on washing and sanitising your hands regularly. You must also maintain good respiratory hygiene by covering your mouth with a cloth and keeping distance from those who are infected. At the same time, eat a healthy diet to increase your immunity. It will be a good idea to get a regular health checkup that will help you stay in the best of your health amidst heavy air pollution.
What about those suffering from asthma?
People with asthma face more health challenges when it comes to staying protected from smog. To safeguard their respiratory health, individuals with asthma should closely monitor local air quality forecasts and pollution levels. It’s advisable to limit outdoor activities during times when smog levels are high, typically in the afternoons and early evenings.
Maintaining good indoor air quality also becomes a cornerstone for them. This includes using air purifiers with HEPA filters, keeping windows and doors closed to prevent outdoor smog from entering, and using clean, well-maintained air conditioning to filter and cool indoor air. Respiratory masks designed to filter pollutants can provide additional protection.
Asthma patients should adhere to their prescribed medication plans, including preventive and rescue inhalers, and work with healthcare providers to develop an asthma action plan that addresses smog-related exacerbations. Staying well-hydrated is essential, as it helps keep airways moist and reduces the risk of asthma attacks. Finally, regular check-ups with healthcare providers are essential for monitoring asthma and making necessary adjustments to treatment plans. By taking these steps, individuals with asthma can reduce their exposure to smog and minimise the risk of asthma exacerbations.
Now that we’ve uncovered these hidden dangers and illnesses caused by air pollution, it’s essential to take action. Reducing your exposure by staying informed about local air quality, using air purifiers at home, and advocating for cleaner air in your community are steps in the right direction. It’s time to acknowledge the insidious effects of air pollution and work towards a cleaner, healthier future for all.