Can Bad Air Quality Cause Swollen Lymph Nodes?

In this blog post, we will discuss “Can bad air quality cause swollen lymph nodes?” First, we will discuss the details of air pollution. Then, we will address the basics of lymph nodes. The article will then outline the relationship between the lymphatic system and air pollution. In the end, the article will also provide practical solutions to fight air pollution.

Can bad air quality cause swollen lymph nodes?

Yes, bad air quality can cause swollen lymph nodes. Your lymph nodes can get swollen due to the following conditions:

  • Bacterial Infection
  • Viral Infection

 Let’s first see about air pollution. 

What is air pollution? 

The introduction of harmful agents into the atmosphere is known as air pollution. The toxic agents are known as pollutants. These pollutants are derived from natural and human activities, and they can be chemical or biological.

Major pollutants present in the air are particulate matter (PM), ground-level ozone (O3), NO2, SO2, and CO. Air also has lead, allergens, bacteria, viruses and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Besides climate change, air pollution has become a significant environmental risk to human health. 

Therefore, striving towards minimising air pollution can also help to improve climate change mitigation efforts. In addition, reducing emissions will enhance the quality of air.

What is indoor and outdoor pollution?

Air pollution in the outside environment is called ambient pollution or outdoor pollution. Some of the examples are the transportation sector, energy generation, industries, dust storms, etc. Air pollution created inside any closed structure is called indoor pollution or household pollution. Cooking activities, cleaning and dusting of house, use of scents and perfumes, etc. Are some of the examples of indoor air pollution.

 Let’s see what Air Quality Index is. 

What is AQI, and what levels make it unhealthy?

Environment Protection Agency (EPA) has determined the air quality index (AQI) to know the air quality you inhale. The table given below will show how the air quality index looks like.

Air Quality Index (AQI)Levels of Health Concern
(When the AQI is in this range)(air quality conditions are)
0 to 50Good           
51 to 100Moderate
101 to 150Unhealthy for Sensitive group
151 to 200Unhealthy
201 to 300Very Unhealthy
301 to 500Hazardous

The primary purpose of AQI is to inform residents about the impact of local air quality on their health. The Environment Protection Agency calculates the AQI for five major pollutants: ground-level ozone, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide.

The meaning of the Air quality index as mentioned earlier categories are as follows:

Meaning
Air quality is considered satisfactory; air pollution is of little or no risk.
Air quality is acceptable; some pollutants present in the air might be dangerous for a minority of people who are very sensitive to air pollution.
Members of sensitive groups may get ill effects. However, the general public is likely not to get affected.
This air quality level can pose a threat to everyone. However, members of sensitive people may experience more severe effects.
Emergency level of air quality; Entire population might be affected
Health alert: Every person breathing such air quality may get serious health issues.

 Thus, it is clear that excluding the first two levels are relatively good to venture out and to do various outdoor activities. However, the last three levels will give you or other adverse effects by inhaling dirty air. 

Let’s also get to know what these lymph nodes are and what do they do for us.

What are lymph nodes?

Lymph nodes are part of your lymphatic system that helps you to fight off illnesses and infections. Lymph nodes are essential to protect you from unwanted wicked things like bacteria and viruses that can make you fall ill. You may not feel these lymph nodes quickly in your body. Instead, there are hundreds of small, round or bean-shaped glands all over your body.

Mostly, they are widespread all over your body. However, you can feel them in a few significant places, such as your neck and under your armpits. You must have noticed that when you visit your doctor after you fall ill, they must be feeling the area under the jawline. These doctors check whether the lymph glands are swollen due to possible infections. A natural indicator of your body, amazing, isn’t it?

These lymph nodes are connected by lymph vessels. The lymph vessels are just like the blood veins. But instead of blood, these lymph vessels carry lymph fluid, a clear and watery liquid that passes through the nodes. As the fluid flows through, cells called lymphocytes gives you protection against harmful germs. In addition, these lymph fluid carries protein, waste product, dead cells, bacteria, virus and excess fat that are strained by the lymphatic system before its discarded back into the bloodstream.

If your lymph nodes are swollen, then you might be having some infection or illness such as:

  • Common cold
  • Common flu
  • Ear Infection
  • Tuberculosis

If the lymph nodes are swollen, it’s also a sign that more lymphocytes are in action than usual, trying to destroy the nasty germs. 

Now that we have seen the details of the lymph nodes let’s see in particular its connection with bad air quality.

How does bad air quality affect the lymphatic system?

Well, poor air quality can indirectly affect your lymph nodes; it can make them swell. Many scientific pieces of evidence have proved that air pollution affects our human body in multiple ways. The toxic agents, when inhaled by your body, can affect your various internal systems. The air you breathe contains many chemical and biological components. When you take in such filthy air, pollutants such as particulate matter can deeply penetrate inside your lungs.

Moreover, such microscopic particles dissolve into your bloodstream, and the circulatory system carries them to all parts of the body. However, other than blood vessels, your lymphatic system can also absorb these contaminants. The study conducted by Gruing G. et al. has noted that the absorbed pollutants by the lymphatic fluid can affect major organs of a human body like the brain, lungs and heart.

As per the US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA), the transportation of toxic agents to these organs can affect the proper functioning of the body. These can cause or exacerbate diseases such as cardiovascular ailments and mental disorders. Above all, many medical publications have significantly warned that exposure to pollutants to the lungs can cause lung cancer, especially among older adults.  

Many pulmonologists have conveyed that pollutants originating from the combustion of fossil fuels, the transportation sector and other human and natural activities can cause infection in the upper and lower respiratory system. Even if your nose primarily filters off the dust and germs and prevents them from entering your body, some of the nasty invaders might escape. Those may be gaseous SOx, NOx, CO and O3 or ultrafine and microscopic particles such as particulates, soot, ash and heavy metals. There can be bacteria, allergens and viruses too. These notorious invaders can cause infections in your nose, throat and ears.

Your nose and sinuses have epithelium lining. When it gets exposed to elevated levels of air pollution, they get inflamed, and the present mucus membrane generates snot which traps these invaders. While the snot is highly beneficial to your body, its secretion in the nose or throat can lead to illness, and you may get fever and infection.

On the other hand, inflammatory agents such as bacteria, viruses, irritants and allergens interact with the nasal mucosa. As a result, it inflames and narrows the Eustachian tubes. This condition causes an ear infection.

Thus, the symptoms caused due to air pollution such as cold, throat infection, ear infection and even viral flu can cause the lymph nodes in your neck or under the armpit area to swell. The swelling of these nodes indicates that your lymph nodes are kicking out the unrequired guests from your body. The wastes and the dead bacteria and viruses are then sent to your bloodstream so that they can take care of it afterwards.

One such research conducted in China by Liu Y. et al. proved that air pollution indirectly results in swelling lymph nodes. The researchers noticed the correlation between air pollution and the upsurge in scarlet fever. The researchers noted that exposure to high levels of pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide and ground-level ozone (NO2 and O3) upsurge scarlet fever cases the most. On the other hand, contaminants such as PM10 and PM2.5 weakly affected the cases. But as the people contracted scarlet fever, they got the symptoms of swollen lymph nodes.

However, you can keep your body fit and healthy in such polluted air conditions. In the below segment, I have provided you with some great solutions to fight against air pollution. 

What can I do to protect myself from air pollution?

I will elaborate on some of the measures to protect yourself from air pollution.

Personal Hygiene

You can also fight the effects of air pollution by maintaining personal hygiene:

  • You can cut your nails short to avoid the accumulation of dirt. 
  • You can also practice mouth gargling after coming home to free your mouth from unwanted guests.
  • You can also brush twice a day to keep airborne infections at bay.
  • You can also take steam therapy at home to cleanse your lungs.

Quit Smoking

Smoking cigarettes, hookahs (shisha), electric vape or any other types of cigars are not at all suitable for your health. It’s best to stop smoking. Active and passive smoking provides the direct entry of harmful pollutants into your body. This causes the risk to your respiration and other organs dependent on it. 

Physical Exercise 

Physical activities have many benefits to your body. It not only improves your stamina and immunity levels but also helps to increase your lung capacity. Yoga, sanas, swimming, running, cycling, brisk walking and dancing are some of the best forms of exercise to improve your health.

Breathing Exercise 

The majority of people in the world don’t breathe properly. However, correct breathing techniques can keep illnesses due to air pollution at bay. A pranayama is a form of yoga asana which helps to improve breathing methods and lung functionality.

Some of the pranayama types that help you fight air pollution are Kapalbhati, Anulom Vilom, Chandra Nadi, Surya Nadi and Bhastrika. It is strongly recommended to learn this art of breath from a well-certified yoga trainer. 

You can also increase your lung muscles by simply taking a deep breath and holding it for a count of 10. Then, slowly breathe out the air. If you can keep your breath for a longer time, then you have good lungs health.

Good diet 

Always go for a well-balanced diet to remain fit and strong. Consistent eating of junk and fast food will increase the risk of obesity and other diseases. In addition, such people are more vulnerable to the adverse effects of air pollution. Instead, add more fresh veggies and fruits to your diet. Also, you can consume less meat to minimise carbon footprints.

You can also add anti-inflammatory foods as these types of food help to cleanse your lungs effectively. Anti-inflammatory foods which I recommend are: 

Immunity booster drinks

You can do your immunity booster drinks by using readily available items in your kitchen. Immunity booster drinks help to cleanse your lungs. Some of the DIY immunity booster drinks are as follows:

  • Take a glass of warm white milk. Add half a teaspoon of turmeric powder to it. Also, add two strands of saffron to it. Drink it at night before sleeping. You will get good sleep, and you will be relieved from chest congestion. 
  • Boil water by adding half cinnamon stick. Drink the spice-infused water once a day. Your sinuses would be cleared up. 
  • Buy an excellent green tea. Prepare a green tea by following the packet instructions. Have it whenever you feel irritation in your throat. 
  • Take some crushed 1 or 2 peppercorns, a half-inch of a blade of lemongrass and 1 inch of grated ginger and half a teaspoon of turmeric powder. Add everything in one glass of boiling water and reduce it to half a glass. Drink two tablespoons of this spice-infused warm water every after three hours. Adding honey is optional. 
  • You can also drink warm water and add honey if you want. Honey helps to relieve throat irritation.

Use Mask

Mask can prevent you from inhaling the polluted air. You would be able to work in contaminated areas without any fear of allergy infections and stress. 

Masks I recommend

Name Why I recommend it
BASE CAMP CROSSDUST MASKEAPI Filter Technology & Advanced NanotechnologyUser FriendlyMore Durable Six layers face maskFilter materials of the dust mask: Double-Layer Melt-blown with Electrostatic Adsorption Performance, Activated carbon, Non-woven Polypropylene
NIOSH approved N95 maskFour layers mask Flexible nose pad, dual strapsDisposable maskEasy to breathe
BASE CAMP Reusable Cloth Face MaskThree layers mask; 100% cotton Skin-friendly and breathablePocket to add additional filterReusable Mask

How can I individually reduce air pollution?

You can always try your level best to minimise air pollution. The following are the methods to reduce air pollution at an individual level.

Plant Trees

Encourage tree plantation drives amongst the communities. You can be a green saviour of your region. Trees are the natural air purifiers of the environment, and it supplies us with clean air.

Municipal councils or the local authorities can develop urban forests to increase the green cover of the locality. They can also plan to create vertical green walls to improve oxygen levels of the region naturally. But don’t forget to plant only indigenous trees. 

Human/ religious celebrations in eco-friendly ways 

Nowadays, many couples celebrate gender (of their baby) revealing parties by bursting firecrackers. But, unfortunately, these firecrackers can transform into massive wildfires if they are burst near trees.

Thus, you can celebrate such celebrations by planting trees in your nearby barren land. Bursting firecrackers on any religious, festive or personal occasion are only going to harm your loved ones. 

You can also celebrate Christmas by not cutting Christmas Trees. Instead, you can buy artificial ones and use them in the coming years too.

Discourage Plastic

Single-use plastic has been one of the major concerns in the environment. Plastic pollution indirectly contributes to the degradation of air quality. Plastic, when burned, releases various toxic gases such as dioxins into the air.

Encourage alternative use of the plastic product. For example, you can wear a cloth bag for shopping. You can also carry your travel cutlery set to a restaurant. Additionally, you can take your water bottle instead of purchasing a packaged drinking water bottle every time.

Use of public transportation 

Increase the use of public transport to reduce air pollution and traffic congestion. You can also try carpooling or the cab sharing option. Then, you can also use bicycles instead of scooters. Lastly, you can always opt for walking a shorter distance. 

Alternative use of fossil fuel

It would be best to try switching to other fuel alternatives. For example, don’t use wood for the fireplace. Instead, you can wear multiple layers of clothes for warmth. In this way, you can conserve energy. Additionally, you can also install solar panels on house roofs to convert solar energy into electricity. 

You can also buy electric and hybrid vehicles to minimise tailpipe emissions. Finally, propose or discuss a plan with your mayor or any relevant local authority to promote your region’s renewable energy sector.

Reduction of personal carbon footprints

You can also keep a check on your carbon footprints. For example, you can delete unwanted photos, videos or emails from clouds and email boxes as and when possible. Unfortunately, this unwanted stuff takes a lot of energy, which indirectly contributes to air pollution.

You can also switch off the lights and electrical appliances of the vacant rooms. Try buying local products instead of imported ones. Be vocal about them. You can also discover your own country rather than travelling to different ones.

Create Awareness

Air pollution is unpredictable; air pollution in your vicinity can affect people living in Asia and vice-a-versa. However, you can create public awareness about air pollution amongst your community by teaching and interacting with your kids about the importance of good air. 

Educate youth by telling them the ill effects of poor air quality. Then, let your country’s future know that they deserve a better place to live!

How can the local authorities improve the air quality of your region?

You can always observe the changes happening in your surrounding nature. If you experience bad air quality or any activities producing air pollution, you can always concern relevant local authorities or the mayor.

Here are some methods which local authorities can do.

Proper disposal of waste 

Improper solid waste management of an area is an invitation to many diseases and infections. In addition, burning solid waste in public can cause air pollution, although such practices are rare in the US. 

The wastes are mainly disposed of in the engineered landfills and recycled before final disposal to landfills and waste incinerators. 

In addition, waste incinerators help to convert waste into energy.

However, many researchers have claimed that gasification technology or waste-to-energy technology may release harmful gaseous contaminants. Thus, it is necessary that waste collectors rigorously segregate the waste before sending it to waste incinerators. 

The best solution is to minimise waste at a personal level. Statistically, 70% of the waste generated can be recycled effectively. Thus, strive to recycle your waste at a personal level as much as possible.

Reducing air pollution from agriculture

Stubble burning is still practised in some parts of the US. This event contributes to the degradation of air. Local authorities can help farmers convert this waste into cattle fodder or be transformed into pellets as fuel. In addition, farmers should stop the usage of harmful pesticides or fertilisers to decrease air pollution.

How can I reduce indoor air pollution?

Maintaining household or indoor hygiene

You can decrease poor air quality by adequately maintaining indoor hygiene. For example, you can frequently clean your cupboards and open decks to avoid an accumulation of dust particles. You can then vacuum your carpets and sofas at least twice a week. 

Make sure your doggies and cats are well-groomed. Use chimneys and exhaust fans in kitchens. You can also install an exhaust fan in washrooms. Always make sure you are keeping your house well ventilated. 

Keep doors and windows open when possible. Maintain the health of electric appliances such as heaters, humidifiers, AC, fans, air ducts and so on at regular intervals of the year. Avoid overuse of strong perfumes or strong scented candles indoors. You can additionally use indoor plants to make your indoors more lively and fresh.

Indoor plants

Indoor plants do the same work as outdoor ones- they help to purify indoor air naturally. These indoor plants are also easy to maintain.

The indoor plants which I recommend are as follows: 

Air purifiers

Air purifiers help to improve indoor air quality. The risk of getting air pollution-related diseases decreases due to the use of air purifiers. Air purifiers having good HEPA filters do an adequate job of filtering pollutants.

Air Purifiers I recommend are as follows:

NameWhy I recommend it
Blueair Pro XL Air Purifier99.7% of airborne pollutants such as mould, allergens, smoke particles and pollens are captured. 
AIRMEGA 400SReduction of 99.97% of particulates of 0.3 microns. Also responsible for reducing more than 99% of VOCs, NH3 and CH3CHO.Washable and permanent pre-filters are available 
Blueair Pure 121Includes 3-part filtration system. Captures 99% of common airborne PM 2.5 pollutants such as allergens, odours, smoke, mould spores, dust mites and pet dander.An activated carbon filter removes common odours caused by smoke, pets, and gases (VOCs) and smoke caused by wildfires.

Humidifiers

The humidity levels in the office should be maintained between 30 and 50% in the office. This range helps to keep dust mites, mould and other allergens under control. In addition, when AC or heater makes the air in the room dry, humidifiers can maintain correct humidity levels.

Humidifiers I recommend

Name Why I recommend it
Amazon Basics Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier 4 litre of tank capacityAuto shut-off feature and 12 or 24-hour timer settingsIt can be used in both seasons
MOVTIP HumidifierPortable Mini-humidifier500 ml capacity, still produces longer mistsEasy to operate
LEVOIT HumidifierIt can be used for both seasons6 litres of capacity Easy to clean and has a remote control

Dehumidifiers 

Dehumidifiers also work similarly to humidifiers. It controls the high levels of humidity in the office.

Dehumidifiers I recommend

Name Why I recommend it
Pro Breeze DehumidifierCan extract 50 pints of moisture a dayEnergy-saving auto-off systemBuilt-in Humidity sensor
HOmeLabs DehumidifierEliminates moistness, odour controllerEasy to cleanRemovable water tank
TCL Portable Dehumidifier20 pints of moisture removed per dayIt can be operated at low temperatures tooEasy to maintain

Other FAQs about Air Quality that you may be interested in.

Can Bad Air Quality Give You Diarrhea?

Can bad air quality increase blood pressure?

Bad Air Quality in Minnesota

Conclusion

In this blog post, we discussed “Can bad air quality cause swollen lymph nodes?” First, we discussed the details of air pollution. Then, we will address the basics of lymph nodes. The article then outlined the relationship between the lymphatic system and air pollution. In the end, the article also provided practical solutions to fight air pollution.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Can bad air quality cause swollen lymph nodes?

What does swollen lymph nodes tell you?

Swollen lymph nodes tell you they are working hard as more immune cells are going to the nodes, and more waste could be building up. 

How to get rid of the swollen glands on your neck?

You can do the following things to get rid of the swollen glands on your neck:

  • Get enough rest
  • Apply a warm compress
  • Take over-the-pain reliever.

What does swollen lymph indicate?

Swollen lymph indicates that your body is fighting off an infection. Examples of such cases are tonsilitis, cold and cough infection. Lymph nodes are found in the armpits, neck or groin area.

Can stress can swell the lymph nodes?

Yes, stress can swell the lymph nodes. Your lymph nodes can swell during skin infection, cough and common cold infection and also ear infection.

What antibiotic is good for swollen lymph nodes?

Antibiotics are not prescribed when lymph nodes are infected. Instead, it would be best to use warm compresses and pain reliever medicines. The pain will get over in 7 to 10 days, and the swell will go in 1 or 2 weeks.

Can you make your lymph nodes swell by touching?

Yes, lymph nodes can swell by constantly touching.

References

Air Pollution. World Health Organization. Available at: https://www.who.int/health-topics/air-pollution#tab=tab_1

COMMON DISEASES CAUSED BY AIR POLLUTION IN SENIORS. Common diseases caused by air pollution in seniors. Available at: https://emoha.com/blogs/health/common-diseases-caused-by-air-pollution-in-seniors  

Course Outline and Key Points for Particle Pollution. EPA. Available at: https://www.epa.gov/pmcourse/course-outline-and-key-points-particle-pollution

Grunig, G. et al., 2014. Perspective: Ambient air pollution: Inflammatory response and effects on the lung’s vasculature. Pulmonary Circulation, 4(1), pp.25–35.

Liu, Y., Ding, H., Chang, St. et al. Exposure to air pollution and scarlet fever resurgence in China: a six-year surveillance study. Nat Commun 11, 4229 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-17987-8

Lymph nodes & glands: Location in body, purpose, common problems,2021, WebMD. Available at: https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/what-are-lymph-nodes

Sagai, M. & Ichinose, T., 2001. Health effects of diesel exhaust and diesel exhaust particles. Environmental Stressors in Health and Disease.

What was missing from this post which could have made it better?

Leave a Comment