27 May 2016
Information and advice from Public Health England
During episodes of high air pollution:
"While most people will not be affected by short term peaks in
ambient air pollution, some individuals, such as those with
existing heart or lung conditions, may experience increased
"On occasions where levels are high, adults and children with
lung problems, and adults with heart problems, should reduce
strenuous physical exertion, particularly outdoors, and
particularly if they experience symptoms. People with asthma may
find they need to use their reliever inhaler more often. Older
people should also reduce physical exertion. Anyone experiencing
discomfort such as sore eyes, cough or sore throat should consider
reducing activity, particularly outdoors."
During episodes of very high air pollution:
"Some parts of the countryhave recorded / are forecast to
havevery hhigh levels of ambient air pollution. PHE is
advising people in those areas to reduce physical exertion,
particularly when outdoors and especially if they experience
symptoms such as a cough or sore throat. Adults and children with
lung problems, adults with heart problems, and older people, in
areas where high levels are recorded should avoid strenuous
physical activity. People with asthma may find they need to use
their reliever inhaler more often."
See http://uk-air.defra.gov.uk/latest/ for
the latest UK air pollution data and maps.
Ambient air pollution
We're all exposed to low levels of ambient air pollution all the
time but episodes like this can have pronounced effects on
some particularly the old, the young and those with existing heart
and lung conditions.
Check the advice for your area. If an ambient air pollution
episode is on-going/forecast it's important you know what the
impact is in your area and, if appropriate, tailor your plans
around it. People should not fear going outdoors, but some people
may experience some noticeable symptoms.
What about the health effects of short-term exposure to
The evidence suggests that when levels of air pollutants rise,
adults suffering from heart conditions, and adults and children
with lung conditions, are at increased risk of showing symptoms and
needing treatment. Only a minority of those who suffer from these
conditions are likely to be affected but it is not possible to
predict in advance who will be affected.
Some people are aware that air pollution affects their health:
adults and children with asthma may notice that they need to
increase their use of inhaled reliever medication on days when
levels of ambient air pollution are higher than average.
For the general population, at Very High levels of air
pollution, some people may experience a sore or dry throat, sore
eyes or, in some cases, a tickly cough even in healthy
Short-term elevations in levels of air pollutants have been
shown to increase mortality. On average, mortality is a little
higher on days of higher air pollution, or days immediately
afterwards. However, the impact on mortality is much less
than the effects of long-term exposure.
Should children be kept indoors during high air
Children need not be kept from school or prevented from taking
part in games. Children with asthma may need to increase their use
of reliever medication on days when levels of air pollution are
higher than average.
Advice to people exercising outdoors for endurance
events in areas with High / Very High pollution
People exercising outdoors during air pollution episodes are
advised to check air quality forecasts and follow the public health
Runners, cyclists and others training or taking part in
endurance events will need to take several factors into account
when preparing or participating, including their current health,
past experience, fitness, air pollution forecasts and their
Runners and cyclists can reduce their exposure to
traffic-related air pollution by their choice of training route -
for example by avoiding exercising alongside busy roads and
training at a time that avoids the rush hour.
Specific advice to runners taking part in a
Marathon/other endurance event
Runners need to make a decision on participating in a Marathon
based on their current health, past experience, fitness, the
weather and the air pollution forecasts in the location of the
Marathon. Runners will also need to take these factors into account
when they decide on how to prepare for the event and at what speed
they wish to run. Runners can reduce their exposure to
traffic-related air pollution by their choice of training route
(i.e. by avoiding exercising alongside busy roads, and training at
a time that avoids the rush hour).
Adults and children with heart or lung problems are at greater
risk of experiencing symptoms. The public should follow their
doctor's usual advice about exercising and managing their
condition. It is possible that very sensitive individuals may
experience symptoms even on Low air pollution days.
What can be done to reduce air pollution?
Measures can be taken to cut pollution from vehicles, for
example through low-emission zones in cities which charge motorists
for driving heavily polluting cars and lorries, promoting electric
or hybrid vehicles and public transport, walking and cycling.
Other measures include reducing electricity generation from
fossil fuel combustion plants, with more use of renewables.
How can people reduce their exposure?
People can reduce their exposure to traffic-related air
pollution when they are walking of cycling through their choice
route - for example by avoiding busy roads and avoiding rush
BACK TO NEWS