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Tracking Air Quality For Asthma Management

Air Quality

The quality of the air we breathe affects our lungs, especially in those who have asthma. Many research studies have outlined the negative effect of air pollution on asthma symptoms. Now more than ever, it is extremely important for people with asthma to track air quality and pollution to reduce the risk of worsening their asthma symptoms.

Research conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has confirmed that air pollution worsens asthma symptoms. People with moderate to severe asthma are 40% more likely to have acute asthma episodes on high pollution days than on days with average pollution levels. Older adults are more likely to visit the emergency room for breathing problems when air pollution is high.

What’s In The Air?

One of the most common air pollutants is ozone gas. It is more common in the summer when the sun shines more and it is less windy. Many research studies have confirmed that ozone concentration is directly related to asthma attacks and causes an increased need for more doses of asthma drugs and emergency treatments. 

The air also contains many other airborne particles that can trigger your asthma. These particles get sucked through the nose or mouth and into the lungs. They irritate the airways and lungs, reduce lung function, and make it more difficult to breathe deeply.

Outdoor Air Pollution

The most common and adverse outdoor pollutants are particulate matter, ozone, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, and sulfur dioxide. Nitrogen dioxide directly contributes to the formation of ground-level ozone and particulate matter.

  • Particulate Matter
    • Motor vehicles
    • Wood-burning heaters
    • Industrial factories
    • Bushfires
    • Dust storms
  • Nitrogen Dioxide
    • Motor vehicles
    • Industrial factories
    • Unflued gas-heaters
    • Gas stovetops
  • Carbon Monoxide
    • Motor vehicles
    • Industrial factories
    • Bushfires
    • Unflued gas heaters
    • Wood-burning heaters
    • Cigarette smoke
  • Sulfur Dioxide
    • Fossil fuel combustion at power plants
    • Industrial facilities 

Indoor Air Pollution

Indoor air quality is determined by the products and cleaning supplies you use within it.

  • Household cleaners
  • Air fresheners 
  • Fuel-burning heat sources
  • Smoke from cooking, candles, fireplaces, tobacco 
  • Toxic fumes from new products (carpet and furniture) 
  • Attached garages that store motor vehicles or lawnmowers 
  • Building and paint materials 
  • Pesticides
  • Radon (a gas that comes from the ground and enters a home)
  • Humidity that allows mold to grow
  • Cosmetics, perfumes, and hair sprays

Air pollution, whether it’s indoors or outdoors, can get better or worse based on several factors. This includes hot temperatures, humidity, industrial output, and traffic levels. As a result, air quality changes from day to day. 

What Can I Do To Track Air Quality? 

While we can’t change our air quality – we can monitor it! This way, people with asthma can avoid spending extended periods of time outside to prevent exacerbated symptoms. To reduce indoor air pollutants, consider using certified asthma and allergy-friendly air filters.

The EPA reports air pollution levels using the air quality index (AQI) on This resource reports the level of ozone and particulate matter. You can also use a portable air quality sensor to track air quality in the home and wherever you go more closely. 

Some smartwatches are able to track air quality. Flow by Plume Labs is a wearable you can strap to different things (bike, backpack, purse) and it can send data to an app on your smartphone. 

How To Interpret Air Quality Measures

If the ozone levels are moderate (AQI 51-100), asthma symptoms can worsen. If the AQI is 101 or higher, it is dangerous for people with asthma. This means that you should avoid outdoor activities and you may have to change the frequency of your medication.

When air pollution is high, it is referred to as an Action Day. On those days, asthmatic people should limit their time outdoors, especially during work hours (when there is a lot of traffic and industrial production). They should stay in well-ventilated, air-conditioned areas and avoid exercising outside. 



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