With wildfires burning along the West Coast, heavy air pollution and poor air quality have become a major health concern (especially since COVID-19 is a respiratory virus. Fine particulate matter (aka PM-2.5) is tiny air pollutants that can only be seen with a microscope. PM-2.5 refers to the particulate matter in the air that has a diameter less than 2.5 micrometers. These tiny particles come from various sources like power plants, airplanes, dust storms, cars and forest fires. Since these particles are so small, they’re able to get pass the nose and throat and penetrate deep into the lungs – sometimes even the circulatory system.
Exposure to high levels of PM-2.5 can cause short-term health effects like eye, nose, throat and lung irritation; coughing; sneezing, shortness of breath; and wheezing. Long-term effects can include reduced lung function, heart failure, stroke, high blood pressure, arrhythmia, pulmonary fibrosis and damage to cell membranes.
PM-2.5 is measured alongside the Air Quality Index. When the AQI is between 0-15, air quality levels pose little to no risk. If you have an iPhone, you can easily check the AQI in the Weather app!
As wildfire season continues, the fires that are currently burning along the West Coast are showing PM-2.5 readings as high as 500. It’s important to prioritize our health in times like this – and fortunately, there are a few things you can do nutritionally and in your homes to limit the effects of air pollution. You can protect your health by:
-Staying hydrated to support the lungs and liver in filtering out any air pollution. Poor air quality can also lead to dry skin and mouth breathing, which makes you lose more fluids. Plus, breathing through your nose will properly filter the air you inhale.
-Limiting outdoor activities until the air quality improves below 50.
-Keeping the windows and doors closed when you’re indoors. This reduces pollutants by 50%!
-Cleaning your nose out and gargling with water. You can also use a saline mist, spray or gel in your nose throughout the day.
-Investing in an air purifier. They can reduce particulates by 90%. If you have air filters in your home, make sure they’re HEPA-approved (aka high-efficiency particulate matter).
-Get rid of commercial candles and air fresheners. Instead, you can burn beeswax candles, which help neutralize pollutants, and diffuse natural oils like tea tree oil, which naturally help purify the air.
Upping your antioxidant intake can also help protect your health if your air quality is poor. Antioxidants are crucial because they help protect your cells against free radicals like tobacco smoke or radiation. Here are a few foods you can incorporate into your diet:
-Any kind of berries
-Dark chocolate (the higher the cocoa content, the more antioxidants it has!)
-Foods rich in vitamin A (dark leafy greens, sweet potatoes, carrots, etc.)
-Foods rich in vitamin C (citrus, tomatoes, bell peppers, etc.)
-Foods rich in vitamin E (fatty fish, nuts, seeds, avocado, olive oil, etc.)
-Green tea and matcha
How have you been protecting your health against air pollution? I’d love to hear your tips!