Asthma is a chronic disease that makes breathing harder. The airways become swollen due to inflammation. This causes several symptoms like cough, chest tightness, wheezing and shortness of breath.

Many things can trigger asthma symptoms, e.g. physical activities, cold air, certain medicines and air pollutants, etc. Avoiding them can help you manage asthma. But one thing is hard to avoid, i.e., air pollution, especially if you live in metropolitan cities.

You’ll be shocked that out of the world’s 30 most polluted cities, 21 are from India. In these cities, the concentration of particulate matter in the air is far higher than WHO’s (World Health Organization) guidelines. 

Particulate matter refers to solid or liquid droplets that can be easily inhaled and cause serious medical conditions like asthma. Industrial emissions, vehicle pollution and stubble burning are some of the common contributors to air pollution in India. But how does it flare up asthma symptoms and asthma attacks? 

Air with a high concentration of particulate matter can irritate and inflame the airways. This makes breathing harder, especially for asthma patients. 

Primarily, three things are responsible for this - ozone, nitrogen oxide and airborne particles. 

  1. Ozone is a gas and a common air pollutant. It is a common culprit for smog and haze. It is commonly found in cities with more vehicles. Ozone can irritate the airways and make breathing difficult.
  2. Nitrogen oxide also affects the airways and lung performance. Both ozone and nitrogen oxide can cause oxidative stress and airway hyperresponsiveness.
  3. Airborne particles, found in haze, dust and smoke, can lead to serious respiratory problems. Both short-term and long-term exposure to polluted air can lead to the accumulation of airborne particles in the upper airways. This makes the lungs’ job difficult and worsens asthma symptoms.

Fortunately, there are ways to keep yourself protected:

  • Check the daily forecast of air pollution on TV, radio or phone before making an outdoor plan.
  • Refrain from exercising near high-traffic areas.
  • Stop smoking and maintain distance from people who are smoking.
  • Wear a good quality mask when you go outside.
  • Incorporate an air purifier at your home.
  • Avoid burning trash at your home.
  • Encourage others to contribute to reducing air pollution.


Air pollution is one of the common triggers of asthma. People with this disease should be more cautious of it. They should always keep a watch on the air pollution in their nearby areas and take all the necessary measures to keep themselves protected. If you often get in problematic situations due to air pollution, you should talk to your doctor. 

Also, Read: Asthma Care in Winter: Dos & Don'ts

with Dr. Akshay Budhraja


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