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Practical Ways to Avoid Environmental Toxins When Spending Time Outdoors

In the springtime, many people begin to emerge from their own versions of hibernation and start spending more time outdoors. This is a wonderful phenomenon because there are so many active, social, and fun things to do when you leave the confines of indoor spaces. However, that isn’t to say that working and playing outside doesn’t come with its own fair share of risks.

The World Health Organization has said that pollution is a bigger problem than both HIV and Ebola these days, and an estimated one in four deaths among young children can be attributed to environmental hazards like air pollution and unsafe drinking water. In the U.S., many California cities, like Los Angeles, Long Beach, El Centro, San Jose, and San Francisco, top the list of having the worst air pollution.

Photo credit: Malcolm Payne via Flickr

So, in this article, we’re looking at a few different ways that you can protect yourself. With the spring season in full swing, now is the time to enjoy the beauty of nature and be smart about potential toxins while doing so.

Know the Ozone Forecast in Your Area

The EPA has an Air Quality Index to help you know when air pollution has reached unhealthy levels in your area. You can also find these types of air quality numbers by watching your local TV station, listening to the radio, or reading the newspaper.

Schedule Outdoor Activities for Mornings

Ozone levels are typically lower in the morning, so plan to do your outside exercise in early in the day. Evenings are usually better than afternoons as well.

Adjust Your Exercise Intensity

Depending on the air quality and pollution levels, you may need to adjust your workouts and activities if you plan be outdoors. For example, if you’d planned on going for a run, perhaps a brisk walk is better on bad pollution days. You may also want to use a riding mower instead of a push mower when air quality is poor.

Exercise Away from Roads

It’s no secret that automobiles are big polluters of the air, so steer clear of them while exercising outdoors. You’ll be able to breathe in cleaner air if you stay away from roads and highways, which means you can run or walk farther and feel healthier.

Listen to Your Body

Ultimately, it’s important to listen to your body because some people are more sensitive to ozone and pollution than others. Children and older adults are often more susceptible to the effects of environmental toxins, for example.

Photo credit: Izabela Pawlicka via Flickr

Signs that your body is struggling with the quality of the air include the following:

  • Unable to breathe deeply or catch your breath
  • Wheezing
  • Chest pain
  • Sneezing
  • Sore throat
  • Fatigue

Keep Quick-Relief Treatment with You

If you suffer from asthma or other respiratory conditions, make sure to take your regular medications with you every time you head outside. Follow your normal treatment plan if your body begins to feel the effects of poor air quality during outdoor activities.

Limit Your Time Outdoors

Although it may be disappointing to come inside on seemingly beautiful days, it is important to limit your time outdoors when the air quality health index is high. Make sure that children come indoors occasionally from play time as well. On particularly bad air days, keep the windows of your home and car closed and use the air conditioner instead, if necessary. Also, an air purifier may be able to help accumulate toxins from the air inside your home and recirculate cleaner air to make breathing easier.

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