Health Watch -- Ozone Alert

Health Watch is a Public Service of the  Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

Even healthy people may suffer when ozone levels are high.

As summer transitions to fall, ozone alerts become less common. But doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say even people without chronic lung conditions should still keep an eye out for ozone warnings. 

Ozone forms at ground level when heat and strong sunlight trigger a chemical reaction between oxygen and chemical pollutants in the air. Ground-level ozone is the primary ingredient in smog. On high-ozone days, people with chronic respiratory conditions, such as asthma, are encouraged to stay indoors and avoid strenuous activity. 

But Dr. Craig Glazer of UT Southwestern says that about 25 percent of the population may be susceptible to ozone, even if they don’t already have lung problems. People with asthma and diseases that involve lung congestion are most affected, but even otherwise healthy people may suffer on high-ozone days.

High ozone levels may cause coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and chest tightness. To avoid ozone-related problems, check your local weather forecast and stay indoors in an air-conditioned place on high ozone days. Avoid outdoor activities, especially strenuous ones, during the afternoon and early evening, when ozone levels are worst. 

You can do your part to help reduce ozone levels by not using combustion engines on high-ozone days. Avoid driving, using a lawnmower or other gas-powered tools during peak ozone times.