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How healthy is the air you breathe?


Many of us don’t give much thought to the quality of the air we breathe hundreds of times an hour. But what we don’t know could be hurting us. Thankfully, there is an air quality measuring system or index, that can give you a general idea of what your lungs are taking in.


The US Air Quality Index (AQI) is a rating tool that provides a numeric score indicating the quality of air based on five major pollutant concentrations. The five pollutants are: ground-level ozone, particle pollution, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide. The index range is 0-500, with the higher numbers meaning worsening air quality. A score of equal to or less than 50 is considered good air quality. Scores above 200 indicate potential health risks for individuals.


Poor air quality can contribute to a whole host of respiratory symptoms and conditions. Individuals with asthma, COPD, or other reactive airway conditions can see a worsening of symptoms during periods of poor air quality. They may experience increased shortness of breath or tightness in the chest. An increase in coughing and congestion. Individuals may be using more medications - including inhalers. Worse case, some people may have to be hospitalized.


When it comes to air quality, unfortunately, the Phoenix metropolitan area ranks poorly. A 2021 study ranked Phoenix as having the 8th worst air quality in the nation. Much of this is due to the high concentrations of ground-level ozone and particulate matter. The air pollution, coupled with high temperatures much of the year, can exacerbate the symptoms in a wide range of respiratory conditions. If you live in the Phoenix valley, then you definitely should keep reading.


There are some things that you can do to improve the quality of the air you breathe and also improve your lung health. First off, don’t go outside, if possible, when the air quality is particularly bad. You can check most weather apps or sites and they will tell you the day’s AQI for your area. If you live near a large city, take a break and travel further out into nature. The air will be less polluted from automobiles and manufacturing facilities. Buy an air purifier for your home (or two). They are highly efficient and some even have built-in UV light filtering that kills pathogens. Lastly, take care of your respiratory system with halotherapy. Even with just several sessions a month you can breathe better.


For more information on the Air Quality Index follow the link https://www.airnow.gov/aqi/aqi-basics/.


Stay well and be safe,


Nurse Pete


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