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Short-term effects of air pollution on health 

It is possible that very sensitive individuals may experience health effects even on Low air pollution days. Use the Daily Air Quality Index to understand air pollution levels and find out about recommended actions and health advice. The advice here applies to anyone experiencing symptoms.

Short-term effects

Air pollution has a range of effects on health. However, air pollution in the UK on a day-to-day basis is not expected to rise to levels at which people need to make major changes to their habits to avoid exposure; Nobody need fear going outdoors, but they may experience some noticeable symptoms depending on which of the following population groups they are in:

  • Adults and Children with lung or heart conditions - It is known that, when levels of air pollutants rise, adults suffering from heart conditions, and adults and children with lung conditions, are at increased risk of becoming ill and needing treatment. Only a minority of those who suffer from these conditions are likely to be affected and it is not possible to predict in advance who will be affected. Some people are aware that air pollution affects their health: adults and children with asthma may notice that they need to increase their use of inhaled reliever medication on days when levels of air pollution are higher than average.
  • Older people - Older people are more likely to suffer from heart and lung conditions than young people and so it makes good sense for them to be aware of current air pollution conditions.
  • The general population - At Very High levels of air pollution, some people may experience a sore or dry throat, sore eyes or, in some cases, a tickly cough even in healthy individuals.
  • Children - Children need not be kept from school or prevented from taking part in games. Children with asthma may notice that they need to increase their use of reliever medication on days when levels of air pollution are higher than average.

* Adults and children with heart or lung problems are at greater risk of symptoms. Follow your doctor's usual advice about exercising and managing your condition. It is possible that very sensitive individuals may experience health effects even on Low air pollution days. Anyone experiencing symptoms should follow the guidance provided.

Page last modified: 10 June 2013