Merton’s respiratory clinical lead Fiona White is urging people living with breathing problems, including asthma, to check local air quality before going out.
“We are encouraging anyone with respiratory conditions to visit the air quality website covering south west London before they go out to check the updated daily readings.
“For some people – in particular those with underlying respiratory diseases such as asthma or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) – staying indoors when air quality is particularly poor may on some occasions be better.”
Cold weather can increase health risks for vulnerable residents, older people and those with long term medical conditions. Exposure to cold indoor or outdoor temperatures raises blood pressure, increasing the risk of heart problems, kidney disease, stroke or dementia.
Wintry temperatures can also make people susceptible to a range of winter illnesses such as flu, coughs, colds, so it is important to get protection from the free flu jab and Covid-19 booster vaccinations.
Fiona is also advising Merton residents to download the uBreathe app which has free, colour-coded UK maps with vital air quality information.
Spikes in air pollution increase pressure on the NHS as people with lung conditions, such as asthma or COPD can face increased problems with their breathing.
Poor air quality can worsen symptoms and cause flare-ups and asthma attacks and even lead to hospital admission. This has a significant and avoidable impact on the NHS with an estimated additional 20,000 hospital admissions each year linked to air pollution outbreaks.
By regularly monitoring the weather and air quality, people with breathing problems can be prepared in advance for cold spells.
“We are encouraging anyone with respiratory conditions to visit the air quality website covering south west London before they go out to check the updated daily readings.”
Respiratory patients can also get rescue antibiotic packs to keep at home if they are needed and sign up to receive medical advice by text.
According to Fiona, if you still need to go out when air quality is bad consider wrapping a scarf loosely around your nose and mouth, which can help. Chilly winter air can often trigger symptoms but breathing through a scarf, warms the air up, preventing it from irritating airways.
In Merton it is estimated that around 11,600 people live with asthma and 2,300 people have been diagnosed with COPD.
“I did not know about the air quality website and will now check it regularly if I am planning to go out.”
May (not her real name) was diagnosed with COPD10 years ago. She believes she got the illness through smoking which she started when she was 14 unaware of the health dangers.
She said: “I did not know about the air quality website and will now check it regularly if I am planning to go out. I have stopped smoking now and am feeling less breathless. I am feeling the cold more than usual this winter and really notice the air quality and the difference if I visit the seaside with fresher air.”