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Ask the Expert: Asthma During Periods of Poor Air Quality

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Ask the Expert - Asthma During Periods of Poor Air Quality

Asthma is a chronic lung disease that inflames and narrows the airways. Asthma causes recurring periods of wheezing (a whistling sound when you breathe), chest tightness, shortness of breath, and coughing. The coughing often occurs at night or early in the morning. Asthma affects people of all ages, but it most often starts during childhood. In the United States, more than 25 million people are known to have asthma. About 7 million of these people are children.

As we head into the winter months, the poor air quality that comes with temperature inversions and the infrequency of rain and snow storms, can trigger an increase in asthma symptoms in some people.

Dr. Cecilia Nguyen an allergist at the Intermountain Southridge Clinic at Riverton Hospital offers some advice:


Recognize the symptoms of asthma, which can be different for each person and can include:

• More persistent cough

• Nighttime cough

• Increased wheezing or chest tightness

• Difficulty breathing during or after exercise


See your doctor if you think you might have asthma. It's important to be correctly diagnosed if you're experiencing symptoms.

If you have asthma, it's important to:

• Take your daily, controller medications

• Keep track of the air quality on airnow.gov or your local news.

• If the index number is above 100 or at the orange level, it begins to be unhealthy for sensitive groups such as those with asthma or other lung conditions. Index numbers above 150 are unhealthy for everyone, and above 200 are considered very unhealthy and above 300 are considered hazardous.

• If the air quality index is poor, make sure to keep the windows in your home and in your car closed and avoid exercising outdoors.

• Consider using HEPA air filters inside your home, which can trap 99 percent of the particulates in the air.

• There are stand-alone HEPA filter units you can purchase to clean the air in one room. When purchasing, look for a high MERV rating of 13-16. The higher number means it will trap the fine PM 2.5 pollution particles.

• HEPA filters in your furnace help clean the air that flows throughout your home. Change filters often if anyone in your home has asthma or allergies. If your filter looks black when you change it, you should change it more often.

• If you are using your rescue inhaler more often, visit your doctor to prevent your symptoms from getting worse.

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