Can poor air quality irritate your throat?

In this blog post, we will discuss “Can poor air quality irritate your throat?” First, the blog will discuss the basics of air pollution. Then, it will outline the link between air pollution and throat irritation. In the end, the article will provide solutions to fight air pollution.

Can poor air quality irritate your throat?

Yes, poor air quality can irritate your throat. The following pollutants can irritate your throat:

  • Ozone
  • Particulate Matter
  • Volatile Organic Compounds

Let’s know more about air pollution first.

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 talk about the link between air quality and throat irritation.

Relation between air quality and throat irritation

Many studies have proved that poor air quality affects your body in many ways. The airborne pollutants you inhale can cause immediate effects such as wheezing, tiredness, coughing, and sneezing. In case if you are a singer and waiting for your next day show, then air pollution can mess your throat at the last minute. Let’s see how these contaminants can affect your throat.

How can air pollution affect my throat instantly?

Indeed, air pollution can affect your throat instantly. If you live in a polluted area, especially California, you need to know what you are breathing— because breathing good air is our fundamental human right. Unfortunately, the dirty air consists of not only oxygen but have many pollutants present in it. These contaminants are SOx, NOx, particulate matter (PM), CO, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), allergens, pollens, irritants, bacteria and viruses. Their brewing depends upon various meteorological factors such as temperatures, humidity, aerosol characteristics, etc.  So, when you breathe in, you take in all of those harmful unwanted mixtures inside you.

While oxygen is used for the proper functioning of the body, these unwanted products create a real problem for your throat. According to US EPA, pollutants such as ozone disturb the epithelium lining of the throat, which makes it scratchy and itchy. Dr Frank Gilliland, an expert in environmental health at the University of Southern California, further said that high levels of ozone could disturb your lung function and swell and damage the lining of the lungs. These linings have antioxidant characteristics which protect your lungs from inflammation. The upsurge in ozone levels also creates a similar issue in your other airway tracts. Thus, when such high levels of pollutants contact the throat, it causes irritation and coughing action occurs. He further added that ozone could be problematic to us all as it is a highly reactive molecule.

In cities like Los Angeles, you can observe that ozone is produced more in the summertime through your AQI alerts. It’s because the vehicle exhaust emitting pollutants react to form the ground-level ozone under high temperatures and stagnant air. During such times, you can experience more cough irritation.

However, unlike ozone, researchers further explained that particulate matter could linger in the air throughout the year. Your cars, the region’s power plants, and wildfire smoke cause the generation of particulate matter. You must have heard everywhere that PM2.5, meaning the particulates having a sizing equivalent or less than 2.5 micrometres, profoundly penetrates the lungs and absorb in your blood.

But, particulate matter of the size of 10 micrometres is no exception. Environmentalists around the globe suggest that PM10 is also one of the major pollutants which can irritate your throat. It can irritate your nose and throat tissue. Such irritation then triggers allergic reactions. Another pollutant that is excessively man-made is sulphur dioxide. Sulphur dioxide is generated from vehicle exhausts and the combustion of fossil fuels. This noxious gas also irritates your throat and nose.

Schinasi L et al., in 2005, did another exciting study. The team observed that demographics living beside the hog operations experienced severe effects of air pollution. They further stated that air pollutants near hog operations cause extreme physical symptoms, especially in the upper respiratory system.

In addition, industrial hog operations in North Carolina are unreasonably located in low-income communities of colour. These people are more exposed to odour or semi-volatile organic air pollutants such as H2S, causing effects such as cough irritation and sore throat.

Just like outdoor air pollution, indoor air quality can also cause cough irritation. Currently, I am existing proof for this statement. I was recently cleaning and dusting my house and cupboards and decks. And the next I have got is an itchy and scratchy feeling in my throat. Indoor pollutants such as pollens, particulate matters from cooking activities, dust, dirt, mould, viruses and bacteria also cause disturbance in throat efficiency.

The throat lining is made up of mucous membrane and a hair-like structure known as cilia. These restrict the entry of pollutants inside your body. However, when alien objects enter your throat, the lining gets inflamed and releases a lot of mucous in your throat and nose. This substance sticks to the pollutants and bacteria. Elevated levels of contaminants can oversecrete mucus and result in chest congestion and sore throat. Throat irritation is considered to be a short-term symptom of poor air quality, and it’s temporary. However, doctors can quickly treat it too.  

However, you can prevent such conditions if you take care of yourself. It would be best if you did not venture outside when the air quality exceeds unhealthy levels. It would help if you also kept yourself hydrated continuously to keep your throat wet. Dry throat is also an invitation to throat irritation and sore throat. In addition, you should also maintain healthy levels of indoor air quality. In the below section, I have given you solutions to fight 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.

How can air pollution be reduced on health?

How does Air Pollution affect Animals?

What can bad air quality do to you?

Conclusion

In this blog post, we discussed, “Can poor air quality irritate your throat?” First, the blog discussed the basics of air pollution. Then, it outlined the link between air pollution and throat irritation. In the end, the article provided solutions to fight air pollution.

 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Can poor air quality irritate your throat?

How does air quality affect the throat?

Elevated levels of air pollution can affect your throat. When you breathe in polluted air, you can experience irritation and pain in your respiratory system. This can cause dryness and irritation in the throat, tightness of the chest, irritation of the airways and chest pain.

Can poor air quality make you sick?

Yes, poor air quality can make you sick. It can increase and generate respiratory diseases like bronchitis and asthma. Further, it can impair lung functionality. The other symptoms are coughing, sneezing, dry throat, headache or nausea.

Can pollution cause sore throat?

Yes, air pollution can cause a sore throat. Deteriorating air quality and changing weather make your body develop mucus in your nose, sinus and throat. When the smog is inhaled, the toxic pollutants enter your body and settle in your lungs. This results in sore throat, irritation in the eyes and nose and wheezing.

What drink helps sore throat?

Warm drinks help a sore throat. Drinking warm fluids help to soothe your throat. Some warm beverages are warm water with honey, hot tea with honey, soup broth, and warm water with lemon.

Can you have a sore throat for months?

A chronic sore throat can last for more than three months. Factors due to which sore throat remains for a longer time are allergens, acid reflux, irritants, dry air and strained vocal cords.

What causes throat irritation?

Seasonal allergies and allergies to dust, moulds, etc., can cause throat irritation. In addition, chemical irritants generated from the burning of fossil fuels, household activities, etc., can cause sinus infections and throat irritation.

References

Air pollution: Why a tablespoon of honey is your best friend to fight Air Pollution. NDTV.com. Available at: https://www.ndtv.com/food/air-pollution-why-a-tablespoon-of-honey-is-your-best-friend-to-fight-air-pollution-1938029

Empowering the world to breathe cleaner air. IQAir. Available at: https://www.iqair.com/us/blog/health-and-wellness/10-most-harmful-air-pollutants

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

Indoor Air can cause health problems. Indoor Air Can Cause Health Problems – Health Encyclopedia – University of Rochester Medical Center. Available at: https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentTypeID=1&ContentID=2163  

Karmakar, S., 2020. Natural antioxidants that can help your body deal with air. The HealthSite.com. Available at: https://www.thehealthsite.com/fitness/diet/natural-antioxidants-that-can-help-your-body-deal-with-air-pollution-783948/

Osborn, C.O.K., 2019. Dry cough: Symptoms, causes, treatment, home remedies. Healthline. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/dry-cough  

Robinson, A., 2017. How air pollution harms your health – and how to avoid it. The Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/feb/20/how-air-pollution-harms-your-health-and-how-to-avoid-it

Schinasi, L. et al., 2011. Air Pollution, lung function, and physical symptoms in communities near concentrated swine feeding operations. Epidemiology, 22(2), pp.208–215.

Smith, D., 2020. A guide to understanding particulate matter (PM). Katerra. Available at: https://learn.kaiterra.com/en/air-academy/particulate-matter-pm

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