Banner Health Services  

Wind, pollution and allergies


Larry Spratling MD, Chief Medical Officer, Banner Baywood Medical Center

Question: Windy days or times of high pollution tend to aggitate my allergies and respiratory problems. What can I do to avoid heightened symptoms during these times?

Answer: Atmospheric irritants/pollutants bother everyone to some degree, but those with asthma/allergy and other obstructive lung diseases are much more affected than the general population.  The hypersensitivity of these individuals causes them to develop constriction of their airways when irritants are inhaled.  The greater the concentration of the irritant, the greater the constriction of the bronchial tubes, but we should remember that sensitive individuals begin to have symptoms at less than one-tenth the exposure level that would affect a normal individual. 
Avoiding exposure is critical for these individuals.  They should stay indoors (air-conditioning) as much as possible during alerts.  If they must be outside, they should avoid heavy exercise (this would increase inhalation).  They should consider wearing a mask, especially if particulates are high.  Some particularly sensitive individuals receive benefit from air filtration (such as the hepa type) in their home or work environment.  However, from a practical standpoint, it’s difficult to remain in the protected filtered environment for long periods.
Prescription medications can reduce the degree of sensitivity to irritants and also provide relief from the broncho-constriction following exposure.  There is no substitute for close monitoring by a physician skilled in the management of respiratory illness.  Affected individuals should have an action plan developed with their physician to manage changes in their respiratory function following exposure. 

Page Last Modified: 02/22/2010
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