Air Quality while Traveling: What to Expect and How to Deal with it
It is time for vacation, and you have everything packed: clothes, toiletries, and other essentials. However, what you might not be prepared for is the air quality when arriving at your destination. Especially if you plan to visit a densely-urban city such as Hong Kong, Mexico City, or Los Angeles, chances are that your health will be affected by the heavy pollution. Yet, knowing beforehand just how bad the air quality is, as well as the symptoms, can help prepare you for the trip. By the time you land at your travel destination, you will be well-informed of how to minimize, even eliminate, the damaging effects of poor air quality. Let’s begin!
What is Air Quality?
Air quality is a term that refers to the degree in which an environment is pollution-free. Having good air quality (i.e. clean and clear air) not only is beneficial to the human health, but also is important to wildlife, vegetation, the soil, and water. When the air quality is poor, it can adversely affect the natural environment, which in turn affects our quality of living.
What are common symptoms associated with poor air quality?
Short-term effects of being exposed to less-than-stellar air quality include:
- Coughing and wheezing
- Shortness of breath
- Itchy eyes and nose
- Chest pain
Long-term effects of being exposed to bad air quality are as follows:
- Development of allergies
- Lung cancer
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Chronic respiratory illnesses
Who is vulnerable to poor air quality?
Individuals of the older and younger generations are especially vulnerable to bad air quality, as they are more likely to experience more severe symptoms associated with it than others. Infants and newborns, as well as the elderly population, tend to be more at risk because their immune systems are not as strong. This is especially true for babies and young children because their lower body weight puts them in jeopardy of absorbing more pollutants into their body through breathing.
Besides the younger and older generations, people who have a history of respiratory problems such as bronchitis and asthma are also susceptible to the health problems arising from poor air quality. Even further, seasonal changes that create more pollen and intensify air pollutants aggravate one’s physiological response, thus making the symptoms worse.
What are some ways to alleviate or prevent one’s symptoms?
Unfortunately, it isn’t as easy to say that one can completely eliminate poor air quality in a heavily-polluted city. However, taking measures to minimize one’s exposure to the environment is the best solution to one’s health. Before going on your trip, research air quality conditions and indexes of your intended destination (there are websites like AIRNow and the WHO Public Health and Environment Outdoor Air Pollution Map to help you out). Also check with your doctor on whether it would be safe to go to your destination, and what measures to take while visiting the city. Finally, if you have asthma or other respiratory problems, make sure that you don’t forget to pack an inhaler and backups. By doing so, you will increase the chances of staying safe, while also having fun!