Does Air Quality Affect Breathing?

In this blog post, we will discuss “does air quality affect breathing?” in detail. The blog will start with a general discussion of air pollution. This issue will be followed by a description of pollutants that can affect your breathing. Additionally, this article will also outline how air quality affects it. In the end, this blog post will share some solutions to save yourself from poor air quality. 

Does Air Quality Affect your Breathing?

Yes, air quality does affect breathing severely. It can cause you the following:

● Wheezing 

● Coughing 

● Sneezing 

● Sore throat 

● Fatigue 

● Shortness of breath 

● Difficulty in deep breathing

● Irritation of the airway tract of your body

So let’s start first with what air pollution is all about. 

What is the air pollution all about?

The intrusion of toxic elements into the atmosphere is known as air pollution. These toxic elements are harmful contaminants present in the liquid, gaseous or solid-state in nature. These can be biological as well as chemical in nature.

Its sources are derived from nature as well as anthropogenic activities. The meaning of anthropogenic is any activities done by humans. Examples of the sources are agriculture, transportation, rapid urbanisation, the energy sector, volcanic eruptions, wildfires, etc. 

But, do you know where the air quality would be poor in your city? Your favourite shopping area, city centre, railway station, or any place with more human activities would have poor air quality. Such air quality doesn’t even spare hospitals. But these are not all. There are chances of you getting more exposed to air pollution in your office and house than just roaming outside. 


Which pollutants affect your breathing?

Many harmful pollutants cause air to deteriorate. These pollutants are as follows:

● Particulate matters (PM)

● Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

● SOx

● NOx

● CO

● Pollens

● Bacteria and virus

● Allergens

● Ground-level ozone

Let’s have a look at how these pollutants can affect your breathing ability.

How does air quality affect your breathing?

The pollutants, as mentioned earlier, when inhaled, enter your respiratory system. Soon, they also enter your bloodstream. Thus, your body starts to get a continuous supply of pollutants through your blood vessels. These pollutants then reach your different body parts, which can cause issues for their proper functioning. 

Your nose of the respiratory system is the first to get direct contact with the poor air quality. While your nose acts as a natural air filter, it cannot filter out very poisonous human-made gaseous pollutants.

Researchers have agreed that the transportation sector and combustion of fossil fuels have been responsible for degrading the air quality around you. These activities generate two primary pollutants, namely ground-level ozone and soot or particulate matter (PM), which can cause detrimental effects on your lungs. 

When inhaled, these contaminants can affect your lung functionality. Particulate matter of less than the size of 2.5 microns (PM2.5) can deeply penetrate your lungs. These nasty tiny matters can corrode your alveolar walls and can impair your lung function. In addition, high levels of SOx can react with other compounds in the air. This deadly combination can also deeply penetrate your lungs. 

Ground-level ozone contracts the muscles of the airways tract, resulting in the trapping of air in the alveoli. This process causes wheezing, shortness of breath and can even cause pain while taking deep breaths. In addition, pollens and allergens can cause sinus congestion and allergy attacks. 

Recent studies have also suggested that the interaction of VOCs can irritate the ears, nose and throat tract. Prolonged exposure to VOCs can develop nausea and disruption in breathing. It can also lead to lung cancer.

 Exposure to NOx can also cause various breathing problems. Thus, when you breathe this chemical cocktail, you are at risk of getting complicated breathing issues, including shortness of breath, difficulty in deep breathing, wheezing, coughing, sinus congestions, infection in the airways tract, etc. Severe interactions with air pollution can even lead to cancer and premature death. 

Which particular section of society gets affected the most?

Air pollution has gripped our lives so much that it affects everybody in the world. According to WHO, 9 out of 10 people respire polluted air in the world. WHO has also estimated that 7 million people die every year due to ambient and household air pollution exposure.

However, there are some sections of the world society which get more affected than others. Dr Tedros Adharom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO, rightly says, “Air pollution threatens us all, but the poorest and most marginalised people bear the brunt of the burden”. Studies have also found that people having lower socio-economic conditions and minority populations are excessively exposed to bad air quality. As a result, they are most vulnerable to adverse health effects. 

Over 3 billion people, primarily women and children, are directly in contact with the dangerous smoke created due to the burning of fuels and stoves in their homes. 

90% and more air pollution-related deaths have occurred in low and middle-income countries, mainly Asia and Africa. This trend is similar in low and middle-income countries of the Eastern Mediterranean region, Europe and America.  

Other people affected due to air pollution are children below fourteen years of age or adults above sixty years of age. People having existing heart and lung conditions are also in these sensitive groups. 

One such historic event date back to 1952. The Great Smog of London was five days of severe air pollution. Thousands of people died due to unfortunate incidents. Researchers observed that wombs exposed to poor air quality were later prone to childhood asthma. Some of them might be at risk of adult asthma. 

How can we save ourselves from bad air quality?

Well, we can save ourselves from air pollution by following some simple steps:

● Avoid Polluted Areas: 

Venturing out in polluted areas can increase your risk of having throat and nose irritation. In addition, it can increase your risk of having a sore throat. 

● Try Salt water gargling: 

This is one of the best practices to do after coming home. Saltwater will kill all bacteria and germs present in your mouth. 

● Always Wear a Mask: 

Invest in an excellent N95 mask to protect yourself from pollution. First, wash it daily if it is washable. Then, store it in a dry and clean place.

● Exercise Daily: 

Physical exercise increases your lung capacity and boosts your immunity. But, do work out at home if there is pollution outside. 

● Quit smoking: 

Don’t give your body direct access to chemicals.

● Good diet: 

Boost your immunity by eating good food. But, unfortunately, junk food is not going to help you a bit. 

● Plant trees: 

Plant more trees. Engage in tree plantation drives. Increase your urban jungle of the region. This solution is going to help you a long way.

● Awareness: 

Create awareness amongst communities. Engage in constructive talks. Help your community to grow.

● Air purifiers: 

Use air purifiers to decrease indoor air pollution.

● Personal hygiene: 

Brush your teeth twice a day. Such a simple step will reduce the chances of getting a cough.

● Breathing exercise: 

I cannot emphasise more. Breathing exercise helps you a lot to improve breathing techniques. I follow this regularly, highly recommended!

● Clean fuel: 

Promote using clean energy while cooking to reduce air pollution

● Proper ventilation: 

Switch on the exhaust fan while cooking. Have good ventilation at homes.

● Avoid Chemical added disinfectants: 

Avoid chemical disinfectants for surface cleaning

● Public Transport: Use public transport whenever you go out. Walk for a shorter distance.  

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

Are your lungs content with what you inhale?

How to improve the quality of air in the office?

What are effective ways to test your lung capacity?


In this blog post, we discussed “does air quality affect breathing?” in detail. The blog also gave a glimpse of air pollution. This article also outlined the pollutants which can cause problems in your breathing. Then, it also emphasised how air pollution can affect your respiration. Finally, the report also gave some solutions to protect yourself from poor air quality.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Does air quality affect breathing?

Can air quality cause shortness of breath?

Yes, poor air quality can cause shortness of breath. It can also cause other respiratory ailments such as asthma, irritation of the complete tract of ears, nose and throat, itching of eyes. Moreover, poor quality can also increase heart problems.

How do you breathe with bad air quality?

You can breathe with bad air quality by staying hydrated continuously and breathing through your nose. You already have a built-in air filter in the form of a nose. The nose helps to bring air to the correct temperatures and proper humidity levels for your lungs. All incorrect matters will go in your body if you breathe from your mouth. 

What are the symptoms of poor indoor air quality?

The symptoms of poor air quality are as follows:

● Irritation and dryness of the eyes.

● Irritation and dryness of throat, nose and skin.

● Headache and disturbed mood pattern

● Hypersensitivity and allergies

● Sinus congestion

● Coughing and sneezing

● Dizziness and fatigue

How do you clean your lungs from air pollution?

Methods to clean your lungs from air pollution are as follows:

● Daily physical and breathing exercise

● Inclusion of anti-inflammatory foods such as turmeric and berries in your diet.

● Performing steam therapy to clear the respiratory tract. 

● Drinking healthy and respiratory tract soothing drinks such as turmeric milk, green tea or just honey added warm water 

Is night air terrible for asthma?

Yes, there’s a term used for this particular type of ailment known as nocturnal asthma. Its symptoms are chest tightness, shortness of breath, wheezing at night and cough. These issues can disrupt your sleep and make you irritable, tired, and less productive for the next day. Therefore, nocturnal asthma is severe and needs proper treatment.


Why is the product ‘Vicks’ bad for us?

The product ‘Vicks’ is terrible for us because doctors have claimed that its ingredients can act as irritants. These irritants result in increased production of mucus to protect the airway tracts. Young children and infants possess narrow airways than adults. Thus, an increase in mucus or inflammation can narrow them badly. 


Who is sensitive to air quality?

Children younger than 14 and adults older than 65 years of age are sensitive to poor air quality. In addition, people with already existing medical conditions of heart and lungs and asthma are also vulnerable to air pollution.

How do you know if you are sensitive to air quality?


If you are exposed to very high levels of air pollution, some of you may experience irritation in your respiratory system. If you get sore throat, cough and even chest pain, then, yes, you are sensitive to poor levels of air quality. 


Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. 2020. Why you should care: air quality and health. [online] Available at 2019. Spare the Air Every Day. [online] Available at 

The Clean Breathing Institute. 2018. RISK FACTORS AND SYMPTOMS OF AIR POLLUTION ON RESPIRATORY HEALTH. [online] Available at

US EPA. 2021. Sulfur Dioxide Basics | US EPA. [online] Available at 

WebMD. 2018. Nocturnal Asthma (Nighttime Asthma). [online] Available at 

Who. int. 2018. 9 out of 10 people worldwide breathe polluted air, but more countries are taking action. [online] Available at 

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