Airway irritants are things in the environment that may make your symptoms and breathing worse. It is important to know what irritants cause you problems so you can avoid them. You should also try to avoid things you are allergic to such as pollen, cat or dog fur or certain foods. If you can’t avoid an irritant, talk to your healthcare provider about medications that can help you cope.
What might happen to your lungs when exposed to irritants?
• Irritation of the airways (bronchial tubes) and they become inflamed and swollen
• Chest feels tight due to bronchospasm
• Increased production of mucus to protect against irritants
• Increased risk of infection
How can weather affect your airways and breathing?
Extreme hot, cold, windy or damp weather may make breathing hard. Exercise indoors when the weather is bad. Before going out into very cold weather, wrap a scarf around your mouth and nose or wear a mask to warm the air you are breathing.
How can I avoid indoor air pollution?
Keep your home as dust-free as you can. Change your furnace filter often. Avoid using strong smelling cleaners, perfumes and deodorants. Above all, keep your home smoke-free.
What about outdoor air pollution? Pay attention to the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) for outdoor pollution.
The AQHI is often reported with the weather forecast in the newspaper, radio, television and online.
Ways you can deal with irritants
Request others not to smoke around you.
Prevent chest infections by getting immunized.
Avoid crowds in flu and cold season.
Avoid aerosols, perfumes, aftershave and sprays.
Avoid known allergens.
Avoid extremes in temperature.
Control dust in your home.
Follow good health practices: good nutrition.1⁄2 hour of exercise per day, adequate rest, fluids and frequent handwashing.
Any irritant, especially smoke, air pollution and repeated chest infections, can further damage your lungs. It is not one single exposure to irritants, it is the sum total of all exposures to irritants that will affect your lungs and how well you feel.