Air pollution is a serious health issue, especially in Beijing. For even the healthiest people, air pollution can irritate the respiratory tract and cause serious health problems such as asthma attacks, coughing and wheezing, shortness of breath and chest pain when inhaling deeply. It can also increase the risk of heart attacks, strokes, lung cancer and even early death.
Before spectators leave for Beijing, the American Lung Association advises all Olympic travellers to plan in advance for any health emergencies that may arise. Those individuals with conditions such as asthma, COPD (emphysema and chronic bronchitis), heart disease and diabetes are encouraged to make a doctor’s appointment before making the trip.
“Your doctor will be able to help you determine if you will be able to sufficiently tolerate conditions in Beijing,” said Dr. Norman Edelman, Chief Medical Officer for the American Lung Association. “Your doctor will also be able to work with you to develop a disease management plan to ensure the healthiest trip possible. That may include increasing the dosage levels of certain medications while in Beijing.”
“Smokers are also encouraged to take steps to quit,” advised Edelman. “Not only does smoking add to the pollution, but will also make for an even greater strain on your lungs. The American Lung Association’s Freedom From Smoking online program is a valuable resource for those who want to break free from nicotine.”
For even the healthiest people, air pollution can irritate the respiratory tract and cause serious health problems such as, coughing and wheezing, shortness of breath and chest pain when inhaling deeply. It can also increase the risk of heart attacks, strokes, lung cancer and even early death.
The American Lung Association encourages all Olympic travellers to plan in advance for any health emergencies that might arise. It is important to be aware of what medical services that will be available to you while in China and how your medical insurance deals with incidents that happen while on international travel.
“To keep healthy while in Beijing, limit or avoid outdoor exercise,” said Dr. Edelman. “If you choose to exercise, do so early in the day or in the evening. If you feel any discomfort, including coughing or wheezing, you should stop immediately.”
“If at any time you are outdoors and experience shortness of breath or excessive coughing or wheezing, go inside immediately and take appropriate action,” said Dr. Edelman.
“Don’t assume face masks are going to solve the problem,” said Janice Nolen, an air quality policy analyst for the American Lung Association. “While N95 face masks may provide some benefit, most commercially available air masks were not designed to protect against all forms of air pollution. For example, they don’t protect against gases, like ozone smog, which will be one of the important components of the air in Beijing.”
“The Beijing Olympics calls the world’s attention to the seriousness of air pollution. That focus needs to continue long after the Games end,” said Nolen. “Decades of hard work tackling air pollution in the United States mean that we no longer have Beijing-levels of air pollution, but even our problem isn’t solved. We still have too many Americans breathing dangerous—sometimes fatal – air pollution in their own backyards.”
(Source: American Lung Association: August 2008)