How can I protect myself and my family from air pollution?

Air pollution can significantly impact our health, but there are steps we can take to help protect ourselves and our families.


Check the AQI

Make a habit of checking your area’s Air Quality Index (AQI) values every morning. This information helps us understand the air pollution situation. Monitoring the AQI is especially important for vulnerable groups such as children, elderly people, pregnant women, and people with respiratory and cardiovascular disease.


Restrict time outdoors

Do not go out on bad pollution days, or at least restrict your time outside as much as possible. If you do have to go outdoors, avoid busy roads if you can, especially during peak hours. When walking or cycling, stay as far away from traffic as possible. For example, walk on the side of the footpath that is furthest away from the road. Even just one metre can make a big difference in air quality. Limit the amount of time your children spend outside when the AQI is high. Encourage them to play inside instead.

If you have asthma, always carry your reliever inhaler with you. Use your preventer inhaler regularly if you have one. If you think your asthma is getting worse, see your doctor.


Wear a mask

Wear a mask that adequately filters out pollution. A high-quality mask such as an N95 or P2 mask will help reduce the health impact of air pollution. Surgical masks are sufficient to protect you against dust and larger particles but do not filter out smaller and more dangerous particles like PM2.5. Only masks with N95/P2 ratings can filter out PM2.5. It is important to make sure your mask fits tightly to your face to get the most protection.


Exercise indoors

Exercise remains important. If you can, exercise indoors or at least in green spaces where there are lots of trees. Even walking around a shopping mall is a good alternative on high pollution days.


Protect yourself indoors

Inside your home, do not open windows and doors on bad pollution days. Keep checking the AQI via the app, and only open them when the AQI has fallen. Ensure there are as few gaps as possible near windows and doors, because even the smallest gaps let in air pollution from outside. You can also use products that monitor and filter the air in your house. These products have been proven to be highly effective. 

In your workplace, encourage management to install air conditioning and air filtration products.


Get involved

You can also advocate for change by getting involved in movements to reduce air pollution and fight climate change. Individual actions are important, but change is also needed on a larger scale.


References

US Environmental Protection Agency. 2014. Air Quality Index: A Guide to Air Quality and Your Health. http://www3.epa.gov/airnow/aqi_brochure_02_14.pdf

Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/expert-answers/air-pollution-and-exercise/faq-20058563