What to Do When Air Quality is Bad (7 Steps to Protect Your Health)

Do you live in an area that experiences a string of bad air quality days or even weeks at a time?

Are you looking to find out what to do when air quality is bad so you can protect yourself from the negative impacts of being exposed to air pollution?

If so, the information on this page can help.

We’ll first explain what makes air quality bad so you know why air pollution happens in the first place, then we’ll go over seven simple steps you can take to avoid the harsh exposure.

So, let’s get into it.

What Makes Air Quality Bad?

The general state of air quality becomes bad when the levels of outdoor air pollution increase.

Although air pollution can come from a variety of different sources, there are two primary categories for it: ground-level ozone and particulate matter.

Ground-level Ozone

Ground-level ozone is the type of pollution that’s typically caused by elements in a metropolitan city.

Emissions from industrial plants, solvents from chemicals, vapors from gasoline and motor vehicle exhaust are just a few of the things that cause ground-level ozone pollution.

At its core, ground-level ozone is made up of volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides that have been exposed to sunlight and excessive heat. And the hotter it gets outside, the more of this pollution is present.

When temperatures are high and there’s not much wind, high levels of ground-level ozone pollution can last for days or even weeks at a time.

Particulate Matter

Particulate matter consists of microscopic particles that consist of dust, dirt, soot, and smoke. And it’s present in almost every part of the world, regardless if it’s a city center or rural location.

Not only is particulate matter directly emitted into the air by factories, automobiles, and wildfires, but it also forms when burning fuels react with sunlight and water vapor.

No matter where you live, you can’t escape particulate matter because so many different things create it. Also, the natural wind patterns cause it to travel from heavily polluted cities to even the cleanest areas of the world.

What to Do When Air Quality is Bad (Steps to Take)

Although you can’t avoid or necessarily escape air pollution, there are some steps you can take to limit your exposure.

Below, are seven tips for what to do when air quality is bad.

1. Know the State of the Air Quality Around You

One of the best things you can do to protect yourself against air pollution is to understand what the air quality is like where you live and work.

Get familiar with the website AirNow.gov.

That resource provides air quality reports across the United States for any given day and alerts when bad air quality is in the forecast.

Knowing when and where air pollution is heaviest can help you know what to expect and better prepare for it.

2. Stay Indoors

When outdoor air quality is bad, it’s best to stay indoors as much as possible so you don’t breathe in the toxins.

Limit your time in transit and try to get more done in a shorter amount of time when you do go out.

Don’t exercise outdoors either since it causes your lungs to work harder. Change your routine to an indoor workout.

3. Use an Air Purifier

Even when you stay indoors, there’s a certain amount of air pollution that manages to find its way inside.

It’s virtually impossible to make any building completely airtight and often the pollutant particles make their way in through cracks, crevices, and any time a door or window is opened.

Therefore, you should consider using an air purifier at home (and work) to keep your indoor air safe. These machines suck harmful particles out of the air and trap them in a series of filters. This creates clean, fresh air that’s not full of pollution for you to breathe.

You can find our recommendation for the best affordable air purifier options here. Those models can save you quite a bit of money.

Or, you can check out this top rated air purifier list to see the best of the best when it comes to air cleaning machines.

4. Use Central Air Conditioning

Central air conditioning is another good way to clean the air in your home.

As long as you maintain the system properly, an air conditioner can help regulate your environment inside in many different ways.

Not only does it help to cool you down, but it also eliminates air pollutants.

Central air conditioners have a filter that all air must pass through before it gets conditioned in the system. That filter is primarily used to protect the internal components of the machine but a nice side effect is that it also collects airborne particles as they pass through the filter.

If you combine an air purifier with a running central air conditioner, you can remove a lot of pollution from your indoor space.

5. Wear a Respirator or Face Mask Outdoors

When the air pollution has reached a significant level it may be time to consider wearing a face mask or even a specially-designed respirator.

These types of products do a good job of blocking both types of air pollution from getting into your lungs: ground-ozone and particulate matter.

Anyone suffering from any type of lung disease or cardiovascular condition should seriously consider wearing a face mask or respirator when going outdoors when the air quality is bad.

While it’s never recommended to spend a lot of time outside when there are serious issues with air quality, there are times when you simply have to go outside. If that’s the case, protect your lungs by wearing a respirator or face mask whenever you can’t stay indoors.

It’s also worth noting that the type of mask you choose makes a lot of difference. Look for one that’s marked with the NIOSH label, preferably a P100 or N95 mask.

6. Use the Air Conditioner in Your Car

You want to run the air conditioner in your car for the same reason you would run the air conditioning system in your home. It helps remove airborne pollutants as long as you maintain the system properly.

This includes keeping the cabin air filter fresh. A good rule of thumb is to change it every six to twelve months, depending on how much you drive your car.

On days where the air quality is severely compromised, make sure that you choose the setting on your air conditioner that circulates the inside air rather than pulling in new, heavily polluted air from the outside.

7. Change Your Clothes Frequently

Anytime you go outside, air pollution particles can latch onto your clothing and shoes.

Therefore, it’s best to have a fresh pair of clothes ready so you can change from head to toe the moment you walk inside the door.

If you can, keep a laundry bag next to the entrance where you can put your dirty clothes and take them directly to the wash as opposed to allowing them to stay in an open laundry basket for days on end.

Clothing is very susceptible to absorbing particulate matter and other types of air pollution. This is true whether you spend several hours outside or even a quick 30 minutes.

Doing something as simple as this can have a dramatic impact on your ability to stay healthy and keep the pollutants from spreading around your home.

Stay Safe

As you discovered, staying safe from air pollution is not as hard as it seems.

It’s all about knowing what to do when air quality is bad.

We hope you enjoyed these tips and find them simple enough to implement in your daily routine.

As a reminder, nothing beats the power of an indoor air purifier. These devices can clean the air inside your house so it’s free of toxins that can make you unhealthy.

To see what’s available for cheap, check out the best affordable air purifier options here. Sometimes, all you need is a small, personal air purifier to keep you safe.

If you want to look at some bigger options, take a look at this top rated air purifier list to see the highest-quality air purifiers available for each size room.