Have you ever heard the TV weather forecaster talk about ozone
levels? He or she might say: "Ozone and air pollution levels
will be very high." Those levels matter to people who have
or other breathing problems. Let's find out why.
What Is Ozone?
zone) is a gas that is a part of the Earth's atmosphere (say:
-muh-sfeer). The atmosphere is made up of the gases (like oxygen)
that surround the Earth, like a shell. Ozone that is found 10 to 30
miles (16 to 48 kilometers) above the Earth protects us from the
But the ozone that is closer to the ground pollutes the air and
is the main ingredient in smog. This ozone is created when the
exhaust given off by cars, power plants, and factories mixes with
sunlight. That's why ozone tends to be higher in sunny places
or during hot, still weather.
What Else Makes the Air Dirty?
Particle pollution (say:
-shun) also makes the air dirty. Particle pollution is created when
tiny bits of dust, dirt, smoke, soot, chemicals from factories, and
droplets from aerosol (say:
-uh-sol) cans hang in the air we breathe. The smaller the
particles, the deeper they can get into the lungs.
Dirty Air and People With Asthma
Low-lying ozone and other things that pollute the air can cause
breathing problems for anyone, even if they have healthy lungs.
As you have probably guessed, people with asthma have an even
tougher time dealing with air pollution. If someone has asthma, his
(the breathing tubes in the lungs) are already swollen and may
contain lots of
Air pollution can make this worse. It can be a
, like pollen or cigarette smoke, for people with asthma. It can
make someone's asthma symptoms worse and it can lead to a
. In fact, when ozone and other air pollution levels are high, more
people with asthma end up at the hospital.
What You Can Do
If you find that air pollution worsens your asthma, ask your mom
or dad to keep an eye on the weather report for you. On days when
the air pollution level is high, run the air conditioning. If you
plan to be outside, do it early in the day. The rest of the time,
stay inside. And avoid places where there is a lot of traffic.
If you play a sport that has outside practices during hot
weather, talk to the coach about what you can do to stay out of
dirty air. This may mean you need to work out in an air-conditioned
gym or miss some practices. If you do end up working out, inside or
out, make sure that you have your
Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD
Date reviewed: June 2007
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice,
diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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