Los Angeles Skyline
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Chicago has me checking the weather almost hourly this summer but the chance of rain isn’t the only thing I’m worried about. Since I was diagnosed with adult asthma, I’ve paid more attention to the air quality and adjusted my activity levels because of it. We’re accustomed to worrying about UV rays and preventing sunburn, but photochemical oxidants, like ozone (a common pollutant), can make breathing difficult.

Here are a few things you should know about air quality before you take your next workout or patio session outside.

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  • Ozone: Ozone is a reactive gas. It’s invisible, but is a powerful respiratory irritant. In the short term, ozone causes chest irritation and a burning-in-the-chest sensation when taking a breath. As someone with asthma, I experience this on very hot days and limit my exercise indoors. I’ll never push myself if I’m short of breath, especially before I start my gym routine.
  • Dangerous Pollutants: In addition to ozone, there are several other pollutants you should be aware of, including carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter and sulfur dioxide. Some pollutants are easier to detect than others. It’s a good idea to test for carbon monoxide in your home regularly. You can buy a detector that can warn you if the odorless gas reaches dangerous levels. Carbon Monoxide is responsible for killing about 170 people in the United States every year, according to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission.
  • Air Quality Colors: The Air Quality Index (AQI) evaluates daily air quality. The index uses a color system to tell you how clean or unhealthy your air is, and what associated health effects might be a concern. The AQI focuses on health effects you may experience within a few hours or days after breathing unhealthy air. Each color category indicates a different health concern:

  1. Yellow indicates air quality is moderate with an index of 51–100 AQI
  2. Orange indicates air quality is unhealthy for sensitive groups with an index of 101–150 AQI
  3. Red indicates air quality is unhealthy with an index of 151–200 AQI
  4. Purple indicates air quality is very unhealthy with an index of 201–300 AQI
  5. Maroon indicates air quality is hazardous with an index of 301–500 AQI

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  • Prevention: This can vary based on your location. If you’re in a suburban area without a lot of pollution, you likely won’t experience many breathing issues as a result of poor air quality. For people who live in cities like Houston and Los Angeles, the risk of exposure to pollutants can be dangerous, especially in the early evenings near urban areas. Take your workouts indoors or exercise in the early morning away from highways. Check the air quality of your neighborhood before heading out for an outdoor workout. If you have breathing problems, consider purchasing a true-HEPA air purifier to eliminate dust and particulate matter in your home.

Being aware of the dangers of poor air quality could help save your life!

Michelle Rivas is a Founding Creator and wellness blogger. When she's not writing for Vivala.com, you can find her at thehealthylatina.com.