Government Guidelines for Health Effects

Actual health effects will vary from person to person and individuals will learn from experience how they are affected by pollution.  The Government has issued the following guidelines to sensitive individuals.

Health Advice for 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 'low' or 'moderate'.  This applies whatever the time of the year.

However, symptoms may get worse when air pollution reaches the 'high' or 'very high' bands, especially if you are elderly.  If this happens, you may need to change your treatment in the usual way, and carry your treatment with you.  If these steps don't help, you should consult your doctor.


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.  On days where pollution is high you should carry your medication with you, and avoid strenuous exercise.  There may be more benefit taking preventative medication on these days.  If in doubt, please see your GP.


Smoking is likely to have a much more serious effect on your health (and that of others around you) than ambient air pollution.  Giving up smoking will reduce your risk of lung and heath disease considerably.  It will also make you less vulnerable to the short-term effects of air pollution.

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.

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 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.

This information has been reproduced from the Defra leaflet, Air Pollution: What it means for your health

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