Breathe easy

Survive smog alerts with these tips

When you head outdoors in the warm months ahead, you’ll need more than sunscreen to protect yourself. The air we breathe is getting dirtier, making it more difficult to breathe and causing respiratory problems such as asthma. When the air is smoggy, some women may need to take extra care. When your lungs are smaller, you are at greater risk for smog’s toxic effects, says Dr. Elliot Halparin, president of the Ontario Medical Association. And women in big cities aren’t the only ones affected. Smog strikes rural areas, too, when pollutants are blown downwind from big cities, for example. Good news: you don’t need a gas mask to breathe easy. Here’s what experts recommend to survive smog alerts:

Stay indoors

If you need to go outside, try to do so in the morning. If you have air conditioning at home, make sure you use it responsibly. If not, keep doors and windows shut and draw the curtains to keep the house cool. Go to air-conditioned libraries, malls or cinemas during peak smog hours.

Feed your lungs and heart

Eat beets, carrots, leafy greens, sweet potatoes, fruit and whole grains for vitamins C and E and beta carotene, which will rid your body of pollutants. Toronto naturopathic doctor Michelle Stapleton also recommends getting enough zinc (found in eggs, tofu and fish) and coenzyme Q10, available in the fleshy parts of oranges and grapefruit. If necessary, take supplements.

Breathe properly

Certain exercises done regularly can help strengthen your lungs. Breathe in through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Repeat for several minutes. Also try inhaling for two counts and exhaling for three or more counts. Avoid these exercises during smog alerts because you will draw pollutants deep into the lungs. If you find you are wheezing, coughing and have shortness of breath on smoggy days, you may have asthma. Tell your doctor.

Buy some English ivy

Along with plants such as chrysanthemums, peace lilies and members of the dracaena family, ivy may help clean the air in your home. Keep these plants around the house to absorb indoor pollutants, such as carbon monoxide and benzene, that are also found in smog.

Drink water

Heat dehydrates you quickly. Water removes wastes and toxins and helps carry oxygen and nutrients in your blood. Lack of H2O also dries out the lining of your lungs, which makes them more sensitive to irritants.