The beautiful blue skies in the Seattle area and amazing views of the Olympics and Cascades have been a delightful surprise to a region that spends most of its winter days under a thick cloud cover. However, the crisp and calm weather is coming at a price: air stagnation. The National Weather Service issued an “air stagnation advisory” for the lowlands of Western Washington that will remain in effect until noon, Jan. 22. This stable weather pattern can trap pollutants near the ground, causing unhealthy levels of pollution. Stagnant air allows pollutants, such as wood smoke and carbon monoxide, to increase near the surface. For people with asthma or another respiratory illness, this can be a real problem.
“Air pollution can trigger asthma attacks, cause difficulty breathing and make health problems worse,” says David M. Robinson, MD, from Virginia Mason’s Section of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology. “It’s especially harmful to people with heart and lung issues, children and older adults.”
- Follow these tips to keep asthma and other breathing problems from acting up during the next few days:
- Stay indoors with windows and doors shut. Don’t burn wood in your fireplace.
- Use the recirculate mode in your car.
- Rethink your exercise plans – for example, instead of a long run, a short walk might do just fine during stagnant air conditions.
- Follow your asthma management plan if you have one; speak with your health care provider about creating one if you don’t.
- Drink water to keep airways moist.
Air pollution can cause dizziness, headache, difficulty breathing, coughing, excessive phlegm and nausea. Contact your doctor if you have symptoms such as chest pain or tightness, shortness of breath, or severe fatigue. This is important for everyone, especially people who have not been diagnosed with lung or heart disease.