Air pollution doesn’t only affect you if you spend most of your time outside. Even if you don’t breathe in the air directly, pollution in the air can affect your health on days when there are high concentrations of smog, pollen, or dust in the air – even indoors.
If you notice changes in your overall health and environment over the course of the year, it could be that the quality of your air is changing as well. If that’s the case, at the very least, you should invest in a high-quality face mask that is capable of PM0.1 filtration. Here are ten signs that outdoor air quality is affecting your health.
Headaches, Cold and Flu
If you experience headaches or colds and flu symptoms, outdoor air quality could be affecting your health. Breathing in contaminants can cause headaches and dizziness, especially in those with asthma or respiratory disorders like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Cold and flu viruses are typically passed from person to person via hands touching contaminated surfaces—like door handles. By coughing or sneezing on these surfaces, people transmit viruses and bacteria from one area to another.
Asthma attacks are caused by airway inflammation and constriction, which lead to a build-up of mucus in your lungs. Asthma attacks can also be triggered by exposure to irritants like diesel exhaust and pollutants.
If you have asthma, it’s crucial that you keep an eye on your air quality. If you experience breathing difficulties outdoors, try relocating to a place with better air quality for at least a couple of hours. You may also want to avoid highly polluted areas to prevent asthma attacks.
Seasonal allergies are often linked to poor air quality. Pollen counts tend to be higher when there are high concentrations of particles in outdoor air, especially during the summer months.
Keep track of how many hours per day you experience symptoms like runny nose, congestion, and sneezing. If you notice a pattern, it could be due to poor outdoor air quality.
Indoor air quality can also be a problem. Watch for symptoms like sneezing, itchy or watery eyes, and coughing. These can be signs of mold or dust mite allergies caused by indoor air pollution.
Some of your health problems may be tied to seasonal changes. If you’re like many, you might notice that your symptoms seem worse during the summer and winter months.
Seasonal allergies are a common example. These are caused by air pollutants produced by plants during particular seasons.
Additionally, certain weather patterns can lead to spikes in air pollutants. That’s why it may be a good idea to take extra precautions during bad air days. For example, you might limit time outside on very hot days or when there are high amounts of ozone in your area.
The easiest and most common symptom of poor air quality is eye irritations. If you’re suffering from dry or itchy eyes, burning or watery eyes, redness, blurred vision, or any other eye discomfort, your outdoor air quality could be poor.
The outdoors contains several allergens that can cause eye irritation, including pollen and pet dander. Pollutants such as particulate matter and ozone can also contribute to these irritations.
If you notice that your skin has become dry and flaky, resulting in excessive exposure to irritants like pollutants, it may mean that your air quality is low.
This change in skin texture could also mean that you’re feeling tenser and stressed due to high pollution levels in your environment.
And in extreme cases, it can even mean that you’re becoming more vulnerable to skin infections like eczema and psoriasis.
According to many studies, getting outside can reduce respiratory symptoms such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Exposure to pollen and other outdoor allergens may also lower some allergy symptoms. However, that’s not a reason for people with serious seasonal allergies (like hay fever) or respiratory conditions like asthma or COPD to go out when they know they’ll have an allergic reaction.
Irregular Heartbeat or Rashes
If you notice changes in your heartbeat or rashes on your skin, it could be a sign that air pollution is impacting your health.
These are all potential signs that you’re being exposed to high levels of air pollution. Many other things could cause irregular heartbeats or rashes, so talk with your doctor and get checked out to rule out any underlying conditions.
While these are potential warning signs that you’re being exposed to air pollution, it’s important to note that other causes could be at play. Talk with your doctor about any changes in your heartbeat or skin condition. However, if they occur alongside a particularly bad bout of air pollution, consider taking precautionary measures and getting indoors.
Neurological Problems like Dizziness and Vertigo
According to Environmental Protection Agency data, neurotoxins (chemicals that impact nervous system function) can be found in air and water.
When these chemicals contact your skin or are inhaled, they cause dizziness and vertigo.
Breathing in mold spores and other particulates can lead to neurologic symptoms like difficulty focusing or headaches.
Long-term exposure has been linked to neurological damage. So, neurologic problems like dizziness and vertigo should be taken seriously and treated appropriately. If you have chronic symptoms that have failed to respond adequately to treatment, it’s a good idea to get your neurologic health checked out.
Among outdoor air pollutants, there are a few known carcinogens that you should be particularly concerned about. Particulate matter (PM) has been proven to cause lung cancer and various heart diseases in both smokers and non-smokers alike.
Long-term exposure may even lead to lymphoma or leukemia. The most common source of PM pollution is vehicular emissions, but it can also come from natural sources like wildfires.
Another known carcinogen, benzene, is a colorless and odorless liquid that evaporates easily into the air. It’s used in various manufacturing processes like petroleum refining, rubber production, pharmaceutical production, and dry cleaning.