I grew up with asthma in Utah, so basically, winter was hell each year. My diagnosis affected a lot of my life. I couldn’t go outside on red-air-days. I couldn’t play sports like my peers, so P.E. class was always embarrassing. Asthma was a big part of my life for a long time, and I am not the only one who suffered through shortness of breath, the terror of an asthma attack, trouble keeping up, and so many more restrictive symptoms. Asthma is the most common respiratory disease experienced by children. Asthma is a condition in which airways narrow and swell due to triggers. Asthma symptoms often felt to me as if an elephant was sitting on my chest or that I was trying to breathe through a pinched straw. My whole childhood felt like I was trying to catch my breath. I kept trying to breathe, but the pressure and the constriction wouldn’t allow me to, and then the panic would set in. Stress and panic alone can trigger or exacerbate asthmatic symptoms, making the attack much more severe.
Things got worse when the weather would start to turn. Spring was difficult because my allergies would be inflamed and my asthma with them. Winter was worse having grown up in the Utah Valley, sunken deep below the inversion, trapped in a frozen sea of triggers; however the more I learn about air pollution and the particulate matter we are exposed to every day, the more I realize that it is important to be working to improve your air quality each day, all year.
Here are some tips you can try to improve your daily air quality:
Rethink your commute
Walk, ride a bike, or take public transit when possible. When you do have to drive, try to avoid rush hour, idling, and busy traffic areas. You are actually exposed to less pollution when you drive on freeways and interstates. Additionally, try to shop and eat locally. Not only will this support local business and produce, but it will limit your drive time, which is better for the environment and better for your health!
Manage your waste and be environmentally conscientious:
Here is that old saying again, “Reduce, reuse, and recycle!” But seriously, these are good practices! Composting at home is also a great way to manage your waste. Avoid burning your trash as this practice contributes directly to air pollution.
Exercise your Green Thumb!
Plant a tree, a garden, or a few succulents around your space. Plants recycle air making it better for you to breathe. It can also feel amazing to give back to the earth and enjoy her wonders.
Explore the possibilities of “green” outdoor activities
These activities may include biking, hiking, kayaking, and others that improve your health and do not contribute to air pollution.
Dress for the weather before adjusting your thermostat.
Winter is fast approaching, so it may be time to discuss how you will be managing your heat this year. Turning up the heat disturbs the air and also contributes to air pollution. This year try layering your clothes before you reach for the heat.
Advocate for change!
We have a lot of power as constituents, so we may as well use it! Contact your local representative and join the conversation for better air quality and better environmentally sound practices in your area.
Air pollution is one of the major global environmental risk factors that directly contribute to global diseases. We are confronted by this issue each day whether you choose to listen and voice your concern. People with asthma-like me and many people around us are more susceptible to the risks presented by air pollution and particulate materials that infiltrate our lungs every day. It is about time we speak up. It is about time we make change. It is about time that there is a buzz about the air all year round, and not just during the winter months when the inversion sets in. It is time to improve the very air you breathe.