Can Poor Air Quality Cause Sore Throat?

In this blog post, we will discuss “Can Poor Air Quality Cause Sore Throat?” The blog will first discuss air pollution. Then, it will emphasize the meaning of sore throat. After that, this will follow the environmental causes of sore throat. Additionally, the article will also outline the relation between air pollution and sore throat. In the end, the article will provide the solution to minimize air pollution.

Can Poor Air Quality Cause Sore Throat?

Yes, poor air quality causes sore throat. The factors which cause sore throat are as follows:

  • Chemical pollutants
  • Allergens
  • Irritants
  • Dryness of the environment

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.

WHO has suggested some revised guidelines on 22 September 2021 to improve the overall air quality. This organisation has decided to implement permissible limits of the earlier significant pollutants.

These permissible limits of ambient air quality are as follows:

PollutantsHourly mean concentration (ug/m-3)Annual mean concentration (ug/m-3)
PM2.5155
PM104515
NO22510
SO240
CO4
O38 hour: 100Peak season: 60

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. The above section will explain the health effects due to polluted air.

Now let’s see the meaning of the sore throat.

What do you mean by a sore throat?

Sore throat is feeling when your throat is irritated, swelled, painful, scratchy and dry. Your throat can get these feelings due to the following factors:

  • Bacterial infections
  • Viral infections
  • Acid reflux
  • Strained vocal cords
  • Allergies and irritants
  • Air pollution

You can also experience pain when swallowing your food or saliva. While the sore throats of common viruses can get cured in 3 to 10 days, the sore throats due to bacterial infection and air pollution may take a longer time to go. In the next section, we will be focusing more on how allergies, irritants and dryness of the environment can cause you a sore throat.

Let’s see the environmental causes of sore throat

Environmental Causes of sore throat

Many pieces of evidence have proved that breathing polluted air gives some of the immediate effects such as coughing, wheezing, dizziness, etc. One such symptom is sore throat-it’s the one everyone hates because it gives you pain and irritation even if you swallow your favourite food.

The air you breathe in may not necessarily be only of oxygen; it is composed of many pollutants, irritants, allergens, bacteria, moulds and viruses (that’s too many, isn’t it?) But, that’s not all; the concentration of these mixtures is all dependent on various meteorological factors such as temperature, weather, humidity, etc.

Smog conditions are caused when Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and noxious (NOx) gases are combined under the presence of sunlight. This smog is prevalent in high-level temperatures with no winds, and ozone levels increase in the evenings and minimum in the sunrise. The natural ozone in the atmospheric layer is beneficial for survival on the earth. However, artificial ground-level ozone is much more lethal.

VOCs are produced by the combustion of toxic chemicals, which are later vapourised and forms gas. NOx or noxious gases are formed when oxygen is added with nitrogen during the combustion process under high temperatures. Ground-level ozone smog is formed from combustion activities, vehicular activities and natural events such as wildfires.

Additionally, wildfires also produce particulate matter and soot. According to the medical sciences, when you inhale smog, toxins enter your body and get settled into your lungs. This results in sore throat, cough, sluggish feeling and wheezing.

Irritants are present everywhere in the air- whether it be indoor or outdoor. One such notorious irritants are tobacco smoke and other chemical gases produced by industries. They cause a chronic sore throat. Initially, I was under the belief that drinking alcohol could resolve my sore throat issues. But recent medical studies advised avoiding alcohol consumption and over spicy foods as it might aggravate your sore throat condition.

Your indoor air may contain many allergens such as dust, mites, pet dander from your furry friends, moulds, pollens, etc. These allergens will tickle and irritate your nose first and then cause you a sore throat. Such allergic sore throat might get complex when the mucus from your nose gets dripped into your mouth. The dripped mucus irritates and inflames your throat, aggravating your sore throat.

The humidity levels of your home also play a significant role in good throat health. If you have dry indoor air, it can make your throat scratchy and rough. Also, because of nasal congestion, you might breathe through your mouth. Thus, breathing through your mouth can lead to a dry and sore throat.

Your household chores can also equally cause you a sore throat. As per California Air Resources Board (CARB), people use various heat sources for cooking food such as wood, electricity and gas. Unfortunately, using natural gas and propane stoves can generate carbon monoxide, formaldehyde and other harmful pollutants into the indoor air. Worse, using a wood stove or fireplace can produce high levels of particulate pollution in the house.

Unhealthy air pollutants generated after heating oil, fat and other food items at high temperatures can cause intense coughing and throat irritation. Moreover, gas or electric self-ovens can upsurge pollution levels as the food waste is burned away. Additionally, the poor ventilation system of the kitchen can make things worst. Thus, the activities mentioned earlier cause nose and throat irritation and can cause sore throat.

 Now that we learned about the cause of the sore throat, let’s see how these pollutants affect your throat.

 Connection of airborne pollutants and sore throat

So, once you take in all this nasty mixture, it firstly comes in contact with your whole respiratory system. Pollutants such as particulate matter (PM), sizing less than 2.5 micrometres, can deeply penetrate your lungs and even absorb in your bloodstream. Particulate matter includes dust, dirt, pollens, etc. 

These pollutants irritate the linings of the lungs. The lining of your lungs is made up of antioxidant materials. They get damaged and inflamed when they come in contact with the contaminants. In addition to it, your throat, nose and sinuses are also thinly lined with mucus membranes.

This mucus is essential for our body. When foreign particles attack your upper airways, the epithelium linings get swelled, and these membranes produce mucus. The job of the produced mucus is to trap the pollutants and irritants and prevent them from passing into other unwanted parts of your body.

Elevated levels of the contaminants secrete more mucus and create blockages in the upper respiratory system. Sometimes, the mucus from your nose drips down the back of your throat, which makes a condition of sore throat.    

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.

How does air pollution affect global warming?

How does air pollution affect the heart?

How does air pollution affect lungs?

Conclusion

In this blog post, we discussed “Can Poor Air Quality Cause Sore Throat?” The blog first discussed air pollution. Then, it emphasized the meaning of sore throat. This followed the environmental causes of sore throat. In addition, the article also outlined the relation between air pollution and sore throat. In the end, the article provided the solution to minimize air pollution.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Can Poor Air Quality Cause Sore Throat?

What helps a sore throat due to pollution?

Honey helps a sore throat. Using honey is one of the oldest and most trusted remedies to soothe and coat your throat.

Can poor indoor air quality cause sore throat?

Yes, poor indoor air quality causes sore throat. Indoor air pollution can cause a stuffy nose, sore throat, coughing and wheezing. In addition, poor indoor air quality can cause headaches, burning and dryness of eyes and skin rash.

Can you have a sore throat without being sick?

Yes, you can get a sore throat without being sick. For example, you can have a sore throat when you get a common cold. Additionally, suppose you wake up in the morning having a sore throat after spending the day before cheering or screaming in a concert or any public event. In that case, the reason behind getting a sore throat is your vocal cords getting strained.

What kills a sore throat fast overnight?

Your sore throat can be killed overnight by following these remedies:

  • Have a teaspoon of honey. It will soothe and coat your throat
  • You can use a humidifier by using dry air
  • Gargle with saltwater
  • Avoid acidic and spicy foods

Does stress also cause a sore throat?

Yes, stress sometimes causes a sore throat. Your body releases adrenaline and cortisol when you feel anxious. In addition, your heart rate and blood pressure also increase. This results in rapid, shallow breaths through your mouth. Your muscles can also tense up, which causes you a sore throat.

Why does my sore throat come and go?

Your sore throat may come and go because you may be sensitive to allergies. These allergies can get triggered in dry air conditions or lingering with throat infections, irritants and allergens. However, some causes of chronic sore throat require medical treatment.

References

Causes and effects of Indoor Air Pollution. British Lung Foundation. Available at: https://www.blf.org.uk/support-for-you/indoor-air-pollution/causes-and-effects

Sore Throat. Mayo Clinic. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sore-throat/symptoms-causes/syc-20351635#:~:text=Outdoor%20air%20pollution%20and%20indoor,also%20can%20irritate%20your%20throat.  

California Air Resources Board. Indoor Air Pollution from Cooking | California Air Resources Board. Available at: https://ww2.arb.ca.gov/resources/documents/indoor-air-pollution-cooking

Health Effects of Ozone Pollution. EPA. Available at: https://www.epa.gov/ground-level-ozone-pollution/health-effects-ozone-pollution  

Sore throat (pharyngitis): Causes & treatments. Cleveland Clinic. Available at: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/symptoms/8274-sore-throat-pharyngitis  

Sore throat and other throat problems. Sore Throat and Other Throat Problems | Michigan Medicine. Available at: https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/sorth

Banerjee, T., 2017. Smog causing cough and sore throat? Look for nuts, honey, garlic in your kitchen cabinet. The Economic Times. Available at: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/magazines/panache/smog-causing-cough-and-sore-throat-look-for-nuts-honey-garlic-in-your-kitchen-cabinet/articleshow/61593154.cms

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