How to look after your lungs in polluted air

How to look after your lungs in polluted air
Dr Mike Edgley

Having had COVID this year and now battling the after-effects and possible asthma as a result, I thought I would share a few lung and breathing tips this month. So, I have written about our lungs and pollution as this relates to us all.

Our lungs are responsible for breathing life into our bodies. But what happens when the air we’re breathing isn’t as clean as it should be? Air pollution in its broadest terms describes any substance present in the air that can cause harm or has poisonous effects. In real terms, it can range from car exhaust fumes and industrial gases to fires, cigarette smoke, and everyday household cleaners.

Our lungs are the head honchos of our body’s oxygen intake and carry it to the bloodstream to support our organs’ primary functions – critical to living. So, in a world seemingly packed with pollutants, how do you look after and protect your lungs in the long run?

Try to beat rush hour

Whether you’re walking, cycling, catching public transport, or driving, the more time you spend away from traffic fumes, the more your lungs will thank you for it. Vehicle fumes are a big factor in air quality, so getting where you’re going a little earlier than everyone else will reduce the level of fumes you’re exposed to. Even taking a less congested route can make a difference!

Get your sweat on

People regularly exercise to maintain and build muscle strength. Like your other muscles, your lungs are strengthened by exercise as they’re working harder to fill the demand for more oxygen in your body during a workout. The more they work, the more efficient they become at their jobs over time.

Other strength exercises can also target areas of the body responsible for the power of your breath intake such as the diaphragm. Just a few of the countless benefits to regular exercise!

Ventilate your home

We often don’t consider simple household tasks as generating much air pollution, but when you combine everything you do and use in one day, it can become very stuffy pretty quickly!

Frying your food, using gas stovetops, spraying bugs with repellent, cleaning the bathroom, spraying deodorants … these activities start to add up when it comes to filling your home with aggravating pollutants.

Regularly opening windows (where clean, fresh air is accessible) and using kitchen and bathroom ventilation systems will help to keep your air quality as healthy as possible.

Use an air purifier

Where getting regular clean air into the home isn’t a viable option, air purifiers can provide the next best thing. Air purifiers work by sucking air into a filter to neutralise or remove some pollutants, then recirculate the cleaner air back into your home. These are a great option for offices, housing apartments, and other more confined areas that don’t have proper access to good ventilation.  •

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