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Air Pollution: Health Effects and Tips During Haze

Unhealthy Air Quality Returns to Bangkok

Seasonal dry conditions without much rain in Bangkok have resulted in higher accumulations of particulate matter over the last month, with high pollution levels expected to continue in the near term. Especially since particulate matter (specifically PM10 and PM2.5) is composed of extremely small particles that are more likely to remain airborne without rain. The accumulation of these fine particles thus increases the likelihood of exposure to airborne irritants and allergens.

For more detailed information about the threat of particulates, check out Air Pollution: What You Should Know about the Particle Pollution Threat.

Combining the constant traffic in Bangkok with seasonal field burning by farmers for the next crop (Smoky Season) and an unhealthy AQI or Air Quality Index becomes an issue for not only sensitive groups, but for everyone.

Air Pollution Effects

Maintaining an active lifestyle with regular exercise can get complicated when air pollution smothers the Bangkok landscape.  And people with pre-existing conditions are particularly vulnerable to the effects of air pollution. Individuals with sinusitis, emphysema, allergies, COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), and other respiratory system issues often will be the first to notice the changes, but anyone can start to feel the effects of air pollution.
Serious Air Pollution Symptoms

For years, some studies have linked air pollution to chronic illnesses including asthma, cancer. Even more frightening, recent studies indicate that unhealthy air quality can contribute to changes in the brain linked to dementia and even strokes.
Do not ignore the body’s own warning signs. Some of these may include:

  • Excessive or increased fatigue
  • Coughing or sore throat which may indicate more severe lung damage
  • Decreased ability to fight off infections
  • Exacerbation of respiratory diseases like emphysema, bronchitis, sinusitis and asthma

Air Pollution Solutions

Having a specific allergy is one thing – avoid the thing that causes the allergy. But what can be done when the air around us is the cause of wheezing or when high temperatures combined with air pollution contribute to temperature fluctuation induced asthma? While there are medications like Ventolin (albuterol) to help those with COPD and asthma symptoms, other steps can be taken to reduce harmful exposure to poor air quality.

Prevention and Avoidance

Below are tips for living with air pollution:

  • While it may not always be feasible, try to stay indoors and avoid prolonged exposure outside during days when air pollution is at its peak
  • Avoid peak times and places for exhaust
  • Use in-home air filters, like a HEPA(High Efficiency Particulate Air) filter
  • Wear a respirator mask which filters out 95-99% of the particulate matter

Diagnosis and Treatment

Shortness of breath, excessive fatigue, persistent coughing and wheezing are especially disconcerting. If you are experiencing a specific pulmonary or lung issues related to air pollution contact the Pulmonary Center by phone at +66 2011 2222, request an appointment online, or send us your enquiry. Or if you are experiencing a broader issue, start the process for a comprehensive evaluation at our Health Screening Center with customized care.

Editor’s Note: This article has been reprinted here with permission of Bumrungrad International Hospital.

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