by: Dr. Mylinh Duong, Department of Medicine and Respirology
We often hear about the health risks associated with weather: car crashes in snow storms, heat stroke in the summer, frost bite in extreme cold. But did you know that poor air quality can have a serious effect on your health?
Ontario’s air quality has steadily improved since 1988, but unfortunately, air pollution rates in downtown Hamilton remain the highest in the province. Poor air quality has been associated with eye, nose and throat irritation, breathing difficulties, heart disease and even death.
Improving our air quality is the long term goal, but in the meantime there are ways to minimize your exposure:
- Check the Air Quality Index to see the current status in your area, and follow their recommendations.
- If you have heart or respiratory problems, bring your medication with you when you go outdoors.
- Maintain good indoor air quality. Eliminate or minimize tobacco smoke, smoke from fireplaces and wood stoves, mold, carbon monoxide, asbestos and other chemicals.
- Keep your windows shut when outdoor air quality is poor and use a fan or air conditioning. If you don’t have air conditioning, visit a community centre or library to stay cool.
- Stay away from high traffic roads where cars are producing pollution.
- Pay attention to your symptoms such as eye, nose and throat irritation, and breathing trouble. When having any difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, consult a medical expert.
How do I know if I’m at increased risk?
Individuals with diabetes, lung disease (chronic bronchitis, asthma, emphysema, lung cancer) or heart disease tend to be more sensitive to air pollution. Seniors and children also have a higher risk of complications from poor air quality.
If you’re at increased risk, talk to your doctor about how to manage your risk and your symptoms.