Surviving summer smog

(NC) — Summer is here, bringing longer days and warmer temperatures – but with that heat also comes smog. Smog is the combination of smoke and fog, a form of air pollution that can occur at any time of the year, but is heaviest in the warmer months from April to September. This polluted air can stealthily cause damage to your lungs even when you can't see or smell it around you.

Smog can result in coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing — and for people who have lung diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), it can have much more serious effects.

COPD, which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis, causes narrowing of the lung airways.

Symptoms include shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing and coughing up phlegm. Smog can make those symptoms worse – also known as a lung attack. Lung attacks can lead to hospitalization, restricted mobility and can increase the risk of death.

Every year, 5,900 deaths in Canada’s eight largest cities are attributed to smog.

When you feel bogged down by scorching summer heat, remember smog can be crippling to your lung health, but there are steps you can take to help you breathe more easily:

  • Know the Air Quality Index scale. Adjust your outdoor activities for that day as needed and try to avoid exposure to air pollution, cigarette smoke and breathing humid air.
  • Know yourself. If you notice you are regularly short of breath or have an ongoing cough, speak to your physician about a COPD assessment. If you do suffer from COPD, your doctor can help you manage your condition so that you can take part in the activities you enjoy, no matter what season.
  • Know the signs of a lung attack. If you have a lung disease like COPD and notice any significant changes like increased coughing, wheezing or an unusual change in phlegm, contact your physician. Discuss your worsening symptoms and also ask if your medication dosages need an adjustment.