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Air pollution-Is it dangerous for asthmatic patient?

What is indoor and outdoor air pollution?

Air pollution occurs when the air contain chemical, particle, gaseous or any contaminant in harmful amounts to the living organism (human, animal and plant)

There is two (2) type of air pollution which differs in source of pollutant which is:

  1. Indoor air pollution – air pollution in the building (house, office, shop, shopping mall and etc). These are caused by many factors such as;
    • Building structure, usage of building material and household item in the building – example are poor ventilated building and the usage of asbestos for the roof;

      Picture 1 – The use of asbestos for the roof may create risk to the public.

    • Cleaning and maintenance substance for the building – usage of cleaning substance that contain glycol ethers may contribute to indoor air pollution
    • Human activities in building – such as smoking in the house and use of mosquito coil may produce particulate matter into the indoor air
  2. Outdoor air pollution – outside air pollution due to the following:
    • Fuel burning in factories and fumes produced by vehicles will produce dust, gaseous such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide. Haze is pollution manifestation of outdoor pollution. This may be due to uncontrolled forest fire.

      Picture 2: Smoke release by factories into the air that contribute to outdoor air pollution.

    • Uncontrolled spraying of insecticide and using of fertilizers by farmers will release gaseous and harmful chemicals to the air;
    • Human activities such as burning of garbage, cooking by burning of coal/wood and smoking

Why does air pollution increase the risk of asthmatic attack?

Air pollution will induce asthmatic attack and worsen the condition.

  • 75% of asthma patient states that traffic fume worsen their symptoms (Asthma UK website)
  • Increase of asthma cases during haze (Hamidi et al)

High level of pollution affect to everyone because when breathe in air, you breathe in the harmful substance too. People with asthma are more sensitive to pollution and experience the effects more quickly and severely.

Research has shown that high levels of air pollution can;

  1. Make people with asthma more sensitive to triggers (such as pollen, dust and fungus)

    Picture 3 – Burning of mosquito coil contribute particulate to indoor air pollution.

  2. Reduce lung function because the linings in the airways become inflamed, which could lead to breathing problems.

What are the air pollutants that will induce asthma?

Air pollutants that can induce asthma are;

  • Ozone – ozone gas are produced when sunlight combines and reacts with certain chemicals. These chemicals can be produced by vehicle fumes and fuel burning from factories and oil plant
  • Particulates – particles are product from fuel burning in factories, wood smoke and vehicle fumes.

What are the preventive measures to air pollution for asthma patient?

It’s difficult to avoid air pollution, but there are ways you can reduce the risk of it affecting you;

  1. Regular asthma reviews in the clinic. Discuss with your doctor on specific advices related to air pollution and the preventive measures to protect you from being exposed to air pollution.
  2. Be prepared with your medication and make sure you are ready with your inhaler or medicine; and
  3. Patient may get the air pollution forecast from the related portal or through any mass media.

Picture 4: Haze which parts of air pollution may induce asthma symptom in patient.

When air pollution is high, asthma patient or public are advised to take these preventive measures to reduce the asthmatic attack or the severity;

  1. Limit the amount of time you spend outdoor
  2. When you are indoor, keep  window, door or any opening closed;
  3. If possible, avoid outdoor activities. If it really need to be done, plan the activities including exercise for earlier in the day when air quality tends to be better
  4. If possible, avoid areas where there is a lot of traffic especially during prime time (morning and evening) in weekdays; and
  5. Be ready with medication especially inhaler to reduce and control asthma symptoms.


  1. Asthma: Air pollution.
  2. Asthma and Air Pollution. California Environmental Protection Agency
  3. Making the connection – asthma and air quality. American Lung Association
  4. Hubungan Jerebu dengan Kes Asma: kajian di Beberapa Buah Hospital di Lembah Kalng. Hamidi Ismail & Tuan Pah Rokiah.
Last Reviewed : 26 October 2016
Writer : Dr. Norita bt. Shamsudin
Accreditor : Dr. Norhaya bt. Mohd Razali

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