Health Watch -- Ozone Alerts

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.

Hot summer days can lead to bad summer air.

In some cities, you may start noticing a new feature in daily weather reports at this time of year: the ozone rating. Like the pollen count, the ozone rating helps you know if you might have trouble breathing because of the air quality.

Ground-level ozone forms on hot, sunny days when chemicals from auto exhaust and chemical plants react with heat and sunlight. Doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say high ozone levels can cause short-term breathing problems for some people.

Dr. David Khan, a UT Southwestern allergist, says high ozone levels can make a person with allergies or asthma more sensitive to the allergens that trigger asthma attacks. On high-ozone days, people with asthma should stay indoors as much as possible and monitor their symptoms. Keep asthma medication handy.

When there's an ozone alert, everyone needs to stay aware of the amount of time they spend outdoors. Look out for symptoms such as coughing; rapid, shallow breathing; or general discomfort in the chest. If you notice these symptoms, stay indoors until ozone levels drop, and avoid strenuous exercise.

Ozone levels tend to be worst during the hottest part of the day - especially during afternoon rush hour. On high-ozone days, you can do your part to help the environment by using public transportation and by not using combustion engines like cars or lawnmowers during the hot part of the afternoon.


June 2004