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Air Pollution Forecast

Low Forecast icon Date: Mon, 23 May 2022
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Health Advice

Graphic of a doctor If your general health is good, the levels of air pollution we usually experience in Essex and the UK as a whole are unlikely to have any serious short-term effects.

But on the rare occasions when air pollution levels are high, some people may feel eye irritation, others may start to cough, and some may find that breathing deeply hurts. Those sensitive individuals who are more susceptible to respiratory pollution may feel the effects more acutely, or at lower levels.

They might include those who suffer from heart and lung disease, including asthma and bronchitis, especially young children and the elderly.

Graphic of a gas mask Pollution bulletins are produced by the Government and based on the Air Pollution Banding system. These bands have been set using the latest research on the medical effects of air pollution on health and are intended to make air quality information more meaningful. The table below shows the four bands and their impact on the health of people who are sensitive to air pollution:

Pollution Band (Index) Health Impact
Low (1-3) Effects are unlikely to be noticed, even by people who know they are sensitive to air pollution.
Moderate (4-6) Mild effects are unlikely to require action, but may be noticed by sensitive people.
High (7-9) Sensitive people may notice significant effects, and may have to take action to reduce or avoid them (for example, by reducing time spend outdoors). Asthmatics will find that their 'reliever' inhaler is likely to reverse the effects of pollution on their lungs.
Very High (10) The effects on sensitive people, described for 'high' levels of pollution, may worsen.
Health advice for people with lung disorders and others sensitive to air pollution
(From the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Air Pollution Information Service)
If you have asthma or another lung disease, your symptoms are unlikely to change when air pollution levels are 'low' or 'moderate'. This applies whatever the time of year. However, your symptoms may get worse when air pollution reaches the 'high' or 'very high' bands, especially if you are elderly. If this happens and you suffer from asthma, you may need to change your treatment in the usual way. If this doesn't help, consult your doctor.
Graphic of lungs Asthma There is little evidence that air pollution itself causes asthma. However, if you already have asthma, you may find that air pollution triggers an attack, although infections and allergens are more likely to do so.
Graphic of smoking sign Smoking Smoking is likely to have a much more serious effect on your health than air pollution. Giving up smoking will cut down your risk of lung and heart disease considerably. It will also make you less vulnerable to the short-term effects of air pollution.
Graphic of winter sign In winter If traffic fumes make breathing harder, avoid busy streets as much as you can. If you are elderly, stay indoors as much as possible and keep warm.
Graphic of summer sign In summer If you find it harder to breathe on hot sunny days, avoid energetic outdoor activities, especially in the afternoons when pollution levels tend to be higher. If your child has asthma, they should be able to take part in games as normal, but they may need to use their reliever inhaler more before they start. They do not need to stay away from school.

Source: Defra Information Service

Where can I find the latest information?

1. Internet

2. Telephone

  • Free phone 0800 556 677 (24 hours)

3. TV Teletext

  • Pages 155 and 169

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