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3 Ways to Improve Your COPD Using the Air Quality Index

Jun 2, 2018 2:25:26 AM / by Cory Luckner

air-qualityWhat in the world is AQI?

AQI stands for “Air Quality Index”. Simply put, that AQI tells you how clean or unhealthy the air we breathe is. Each day the AQI monitors record concentrations of the major pollution's at more than a thousand locations across the country. Data on the quality of the air you breathe throughout the United States is obtained from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and is then analyzed and rated for the population to see. The measurements are converted into separate AQI values for each pollutant and the highest AQI value is then reported for the day.

Since we all need air to survive, I think it’s safe to say that the quality of the air you breathe directly affects the quality of your life!

Stay Aware of Air Quality to Better Manage Your COPD

Air Quality Index: Why it’s important, especially if you have COPD

Air pollution is even more dangerous for those who suffer from COPD. It’s been said that outdoor air pollution is a significant environmental trigger for acute exacerbation of COPD. It contributes to countless emergency room visits, hospital admission, and even increased mortality rates each year!

According to the American Lung Association, air pollution levels are measured daily and ranked on a scale of 0 (perfect air) and up to 500 (toxic air). The higher the score, the more air pollution levels pose immediate danger to the general public, and extreme danger for those who suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Below is an Air Quality Index Chart. We changed the “Advisory” to focus only on patients who suffer from COPD, Asthma, and other respiratory conditions:

Index Value




Get outside and enjoy your day!




Rethink prolonged outdoor activities




Limit prolonged outdoor exertion




Avoid prolonged outdoor exertion

201 to 300 



Avoid outdoor exertion




No one should go outdoors!

* For particles up to 2.5 micrometers in diameter: An AQI of 100 corresponds to 35 micrograms per cubic meter (averaged over 24 hours).
* For particles up to 10 micrometers in diameter: An AQI of 100 corresponds to 150 micrograms per cubic meter (averaged over 24 hours).

* An AQI of 100 for carbon monoxide corresponds to a level of 9 parts per million (averaged over 8 hours).

* An AQI of 100 for sulfur dioxide corresponds to a level of 75 parts per billion (averaged over one hour).

How Do I Check the AQI?

You can search online for AQI and find many wonderful sources.

 The COPD Store recommends www.airnow.gov all you have to do is:

  1. Visit www.airnow.gov
  2. Enter your Zip Code at the top
  3. Hit, Go!

Walla! You can now see the current conditions of the air you breathe. 

Typical Factors for Air Quality Index Values = C.O.P.D.

Although these factors will fluctuate according to different factors such as weather, season, forest fires, larger cities, etc., the four basic contributors to AQI Values are Carbon monoxide, Ozone, Particle pollution and sulfur Dioxide. So, please check your AQI if you have C.O.P.D..

carbon-monoxide-emissionsCarbon monoxide – An odorless, colorless gas that forms when the carbon in fuels do not completely burn.

It enters your bloodstream though your lungs and binds to hemoglobin, which is the substance in your blood that delivers oxygen to your cells, which reduces the amount of oxygen reaching the body’s organs and tissues. Vehicle exhaust contributes roughly 75 percent of ALL carbon monoxide emissions nationwide. It also consists of fuel combustion in industrial processes and natural sources such as wildfires. These levels usually rise when the weather is colder because that tends to trap pollutants closer to ground.

Ozone levels – A gas found in the air we breathe.

“Good” ozone is naturally present in the Earth’s upper atmosphere—approximately 6-30 miles above the Earth’s surface. This ozone works as a shield to protect us from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays.

“Bad” ozone, on the other hand, forms near the ground when pollutants react chemically in the sunlight. This is more likely to form during warmer months. Why are ozone levels important if you have COPD? Outdoor, physical activity causes faster and deeper breathing, drawing more ozone into the body. Patients generally experience more serious health effects at increased levels of “bad” ozone. Aggravation will lead to increased medication use, doctor and emergency room visits and hospital admissions.

Some of the more immediately noticeable symptoms the ozone will cause are coughing, sore throat, airway irritation, chest tightness, or chest pain when taking a deep breath. Your breathing may start to feel uncomfortable and you may notice you are taking more rapid and shallow breaths than normal.

But what you don’t notice are the effects that occur within a few days; the damaged cells are replaced and the old cells are shed—much like your skin pealing after a sunburn. If this happens a lot, studies suggest that your lung tissue may become permanently scarred and your lung function may be permanently reduced. Scary, right?

Particle pollution – A mixture of solid and liquid droplets.

Particle pollution levels can be VERY unhealthy and even hazardous during events such as forest fires. Particle sizes less than 10 micrometers in diameter are small enough to get into the lungs and that’s where they can cause serious health problems. They have been known to cause or aggravate a number of health problems in many people and have been linked with illnesses and deaths from heart or lung disease. What’s even more terrifying is the effect particle pollution can create in exposures lasting as little as one hour. The effects of these exposures can send people to emergency rooms, have them admitted into a hospital and, in some cases, cause death.

Sulfur Dioxide – Colorless, reactive gas produced when sulfur-containing fuels such as coal and oil are burned.

This irritant gas is generally removed by the nasal passages but moderate activities that trigger heavy mouth breathing can allow it to get into your body. In general, the highest levels of sulfur dioxide are found near large industrial complexes. Major sources include power plants, refineries, and industrial boilers. People with asthma and those who work outside are more likely to experience the health effects such as wheezing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. Symptoms increase as sulfur dioxide levels or breathing rate increases.

3 Steps You Can Take Today, To Help Make a Better Tomorrow for COPD:

Simply changing what you do and how you do it on bad air days can significantly reduce COPD symptoms for yourself or a loved one. By following 3 simple steps each day, you will be able to alter the long term quality of your life for the better and make each and every day much easier to live with COPD.

3 Simple Steps = A.C.S.

A: Be AWARE of How You Feel

On days that you notice your COPD symptoms are worse, check the Air Quality Index and make note as to what kind of air quality triggers your COPD symptoms, then take the appropriate steps to help protect yourself. Many people don’t take the time to find out what factors trigger their COPD symptoms, but that’s a huge mistake. Something as simple – and invisible – as the quality of the air they are breathing could be a huge contributor. Think outside the box!

“We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.”

– Albert Einstein

C: Take CONTROL of Your Health

If the day’s Air Quality level is orange or worse, adjust your plans for the day. Avoid prolonged vigorous activity outdoors. We understand that changing your routine can be annoying and a little frustrating, but if you can’t breathe or stop coughing, what’s the point?

“A year from now, you’ll wish you had started today.” – Karen Lamb

If you absolutely will NOT change your plans, we understand. The reality is, most people won’t. This is why the advent of Portable Oxygen Concentrators, Portable Nebulizers, and other Daily Living Essentials are extremely important to help manage your COPD symptoms. Visit www.copdstore.com for more information.

S: SPEAK Upspeak-up-for-air-quality

How can YOU make a difference in the air we breathe? I know it sounds silly, but speak up! Let your local officials know you are concerned about the effects air pollution is having on your health. Will what you say matter? I think you’d be surprised. Let them know you support stronger pollution control measures, ask them for THEIR support as well. After all, they shouldn’t assume they are safe just because they are healthy, air pollution can threaten anyone’s health.

“The purpose of life is to contribute in some way to making things better.” Robert F. Kennedy

Remember: Be AWARE of how you feel by identifying the conditions that exacerbate your symptoms, take CONTROL of your health by adjusting your plans and habits to avoid those contributing factors, and SPEAK up to change the way our society views pollution and work to create cleaner, healthier air for generations to come. What are some tips you follow to avoid low air quality?

Cory Luckner

Written by Cory Luckner

[Blog 2nd part here]