Air Quality Alerts, Seasonal Allergies, Asthma and Health Problems

by on November 3rd, 2014
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I have Weatherbug installed on my browser. Because I work online, I see every bad weather update. Whenever that little red warning icon shows up, I get nervous. Today, it’s an Air Quality alert. What in the world is an air quality alert and why should it sound an emergency warning?

Like Ozone Action days, air quality alerts signal periods when the air is not as healthy as it could be. The Department of Environmental Quality, MDEQ in Michigan, has a set of parameters that it uses to determine when it issues air quality alerts. Often, the has been no significant rain for a week or more. It’s not always drought conditions, but it can be dry and warm. It might also be quite humid as it is today, when the temperature in 93 degrees, the wet bulb is at 70 percent and the heat index (or “feels like” temperature) is 106 degrees.

Air quality alerts usually coincide with periods of heavy late summer pollination. The air is stagnant and still. Wildfires start easily, burn faster and and harder to maintain during air quality alert periods. The combination of heat, dry conditions and pollinating flowers, grasses and trees create breathing problems for many people.

Asthma sufferers have the most difficulty during air quality alert periods, followed closely by allergy problems. I have raging seasonal allergies. Late summer and early fall is the most difficult. Warm, dry, dusty weather makes my eyes and nose itch. It makes my eczema flair up. My throat drains at night, making me wake up coughing and choking. I also get headaches on air quality alert days. I feel more tired and achy.

When our youngest was very young, she would complain, on certain summer days, “Mama, I have a spwitting headache.” Sure enough. It was hot and humid outside and it hadn’t rained for days. If you suffer from “air quality allergies,” here are some tips:

* Avoid long period outside when you are breathing dry, stale, highly-pollinated air.

* Keep the air conditioner running to moderate moisture and internal temperature.

* Take a warm shower and massage sinuses. This will relieve the pressure and help them to drain.

* Take an over-the-counter antihistamine like cetirizine (Zyrtec) or loratadine (Claritin). Both products are available in generic equivalents. Generic fexofenadine (Allegra) is available in some areas too.

* Drink plenty of fluids. Both antihistamines and allergies can cause dehydration which exacerbates headaches.

Marilisa Kinney Sachteleben writes about weather from 20 plus years teaching various sciences.

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