Cookie policy: This site uses cookies (small files stored on your computer) to simplify and improve your experience of this website. Cookies are small text files stored on the device you are using to access this website. For more information please take a look at our terms and conditions. Some parts of the site may not work properly if you choose not to accept cookies.

Join

Subscribe or Register

Existing user? Login

Advice to give to asthma patients about air pollution

Two-thirds of people with asthma in the UK say poor air quality makes their asthma worse, which puts them at higher risk of an asthma attack.

There is also evidence that being exposed long-term to high concentrations of air pollution plays a part in causing asthma. Women who are exposed to high levels of pollution when they are pregnant, regardless of whether they have asthma or not, could see their baby more likely to develop asthma because particulates can cross through the placenta to the developing baby.

When pollution levels are high we all breathe in harmful substances, but those with asthma are more likely to feel the harmful effects, including coughing or wheezing, chest tightness, or a scratchy feeling in the nose and throat.

Pollutants, such as the chemicals in traffic fumes, can quickly irritate the airways and trigger asthma symptoms. The tiny particles found in dust, soot, and diesel fumes are small enough to get right into the lungs, causing inflammation and making asthma symptoms worse. Pollution can also make asthmatic patients more sensitive to other asthma triggers, such as house dust mites, pollen, pets, moulds and fungi.

Pollution is an asthma trigger that is hard to avoid, which is why it is important that patients are counselled by pharmacists on how to manage their condition well. This includes reminding them that their preventer medicines should be taken regularly every day as prescribed because this will keep the inflammation in the airways down, making them more likely to cope on high pollution days. It is also important to remind patients to have regular asthma reviews and to use a written asthma action plan.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs produces daily and five-day UK-wide pollution forecasts. Patients should be encouraged to check to see if their local area is likely to be affected in advance. They can also follow Asthma UK on Twitter and Facebook for asthma-specific advice when there are high pollution alerts.

Patients should be advised to try to limit the time they spend outside on high pollution days. For example, they should try to go out earlier in the day when air quality tends to be better and stick to back streets if possible if they are walking or cycling. Also they should avoid physical activities and exercise close to main roads, cigarette smoke whether indoors or out and being outside during rush hour if possible. They should also keep car windows closed, especially if stuck in a jam of slow-moving traffic, and keep windows and doors closed when inside so pollutants cannot get in.

Patients should also be reminded to take their reliever inhaler with them so they can quickly deal with symptoms if they occur.

Air pollution is a risk factor for everyone with asthma, but children and young adults with asthma are more at risk from the effects of pollution because they have faster breathing rates, and their lungs are still developing. Children living in areas with high pollution are more likely to have reduced lung function as adults.

The best way to cut children’s risk of having an asthma attack is to make sure they have an up-to-date written asthma action plan, attend an asthma review at least every six months and take their asthma medicines regularly as prescribed.

More information about how pollution affects asthma and ways to minimise its impact are available at https://www.asthma.org.uk/advice/triggers/pollution/.

Andy Whittamore

Clinical lead and in-house GP

Asthma UK

Citation: Clinical Pharmacist DOI: 10.1211/CP.2017.20202650

Have your say

For commenting, please login or register as a user and agree to our Community Guidelines. You will be re-directed back to this page where you will have the ability to comment.

Recommended from Pharmaceutical Press

  • Sport and Exercise Medicine for Pharmacists

    Sport and Exercise Medicine for Pharmacists

    All the information you need to provide patients with evidence-based advice on sports and exercise related health matters.

    £26.00Buy now
  • Developing Your Prescribing Skills

    Developing Your Prescribing Skills

    Developing Your Prescribing Skills uses case studies, mind maps and feedback from experienced prescribers. It supplies practical advice on the issues facing prescribers in all types of practice.

    £22.00Buy now
  • Good Pharmacovigilance Practice Guide

    Good Pharmacovigilance Practice Guide

    An essential guide on pharmacovigilance of medicinal products for human use. Practical advice for developing effective pharmacovigilance systems.

    £37.00Buy now
  • Complementary and Alternative Medicine

    Complementary and Alternative Medicine

    A practical reference source on alternative and complementary therapies. Enables healthcare professionals to give knowledge-based advice.

    £42.00Buy now
  • Patient Care in Community Practice

    Patient Care in Community Practice

    Patient Care in Community Practice is a unique, practical guide for healthcare professionals or carers. Covers a range of non-medicinal products suitable for use at home.

    £21.00Buy now
  • Drugs in Use

    Drugs in Use

    Optimise drug therapy for your patients. These case studies help you bridge the gap between theoretical medicines knowledge and practical applications.

    £42.00Buy now

Search an extensive range of the world’s most trusted resources

Powered by MedicinesComplete
  • Print
  • Share
  • Comment
  • Save
  • Print Friendly Version of this pagePrint Get a PDF version of this webpagePDF

Newsletter Sign-up

Want to keep up with the latest news, comment and CPD articles in pharmacy and science? Subscribe to our free alerts.