Ask the Expert: Asthma & Poor Air Quality

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Poor air quality. (Photo: KUTV)

(KUTV) People with asthma struggle when a winter inversion sets in and pollution begins to build. Breathing the dirty air makes it hard for them to do just that – breathe. This is the case for Theresa Thompson who suffers from asthma and sys this time of year can be especially challenging.

“When there are inversions in the winter and the air is just so thick and gunky, I just really struggle to breathe,” says Theresa.

Many people with asthma have inhalers or other maintenance medications they take on a daily basis to keep asthma symptoms under control.

“During the winter season, during inversion season, those are the days and months and weeks that we really want to make sure we’re taking the medications the way they’re intended,” says Dr. Denitza Blagev, Director of the Schmidt Chest Clinic at Intermountain Medical Center.

Double check to make sure any inhalers or medications are not expired; and set up an action plan with your doctor about what to do if your asthma acts up and you are struggling to breathe. This can be something like having rescue inhalers or rescue nebulizers on hand.

“If you really can’t breathe, if you use that inhaler it will open your airways,” says Theresa.

There are also ways to limit your exposure to the bad air. In general, the indoor air quality will be less polluted than the outdoor air quality. If you plan to exercise (which all of us should), bring your workout inside.

“When we exercise we tend to take deeper breaths and sort of filter more air through our lungs,” says Dr. Blagev.

This makes the lungs more susceptible to those ultra-fine pollutants called PM2.5 that can be very harmful. They are the not-so-perfect size to get deep into the lungs, causing inflammation and damage, and even cross over into the blood stream.

“Air pollution is bad for all of us so we really need to work together to come up with ways to reduce our exposure to it,” says Dr. Blagev.