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The Committee of Medical effects of Air Pollution (COMEAP) advises that air pollution can worsen the condition of those with heart or lung disease and that it can aggravate, but does not appear to cause, asthma.

Healthy Individuals

Are unlikely to notice or suffer from any serious or lasting ill effects from levels of pollution that are commonly experienced in the UK, even when levels are described as "high" or "very high" according to the current criteria.

People with lung disorders and others sensitive to air pollution

If you have asthma or another lung disease, your symptoms are unlikely to change when air pollution levels are 1 - 3 (low) or 4 - 6 (moderate). This applies whatever the time of year. However, your symptoms may get worse when air pollution reaches the 7 - 9 (high) or 10 (very high) bands, especially if you are elderly. People with diseases of the airways (such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease [COPD] and asthma) should take similar steps to prevent or reverse the effects of air pollutants as they would with other triggers of asthma, such as cold air, exercise, and exposure to allergens such as pollen. If these steps don't help, consult your doctor.

People with heart disease

If you suffer from a heart condition and you notice a change in your symptoms, get medical advice as you normally would. Do not try to change your treatment yourself.

Health advice for all

  • If traffic fumes make breathing harder, avoid busy streets as much as you can.
  • If you are elderly, during winter stay indoors as much as possible and keep warm.
  • 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 still 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.
  • As vigorous exercise increases exposure of the lungs to pollutants, it is best for people who have noticed effects while exercising, to avoid such activity on days when pollution is "high" or "very high".


Air pollution has significantly reduced over the past 50 years and levels are normally low or at the lower end of the moderate band. For the majority of the time even sensitive individuals will not notice any effect of air pollution on their health. When you receive a Know & Respond air pollution alert there is no need to become alarmed . just be prepared, reduce exposure where possible and make sure that you carry any necessary medication with you. Never exceed the stated dose of medication and never take medication that has been prescribed for someone else. If you feel unusually unwell you should contact your GP.

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