Illinoisans should protect more than just their skin during this recent heat wave. Increased levels of ozone can cause “lung sunburns” or inflammation of the lining inside your lungs, which can affect anyone who spends time outdoors where ozone levels are high, severely affecting individuals most sensitive to poor air quality.
The American Lung Association Greater Chicago offers these simple steps to protect yourself from “lung sunburn” during extreme heat.
Monitor air quality. Increased levels of ozone contributing to polluted air can lead to a “lung sunburn”, which is the inflammation of the lining inside your lungs that results from a chemical reaction with ozone. Symptoms of a lung sunburn include difficulty breathing and increased coughing, while long-term exposure risks include a higher chance of respiratory infections and premature death.
Do not exercise outdoors during extreme heat. It’s not just uncomfortable, it can be deadly.
Take steps to keep your body cool.
Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated, even if you don’t feel thirsty.
Wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing.
If you do not have working A/C in your home, locate air-conditioned spaces such as shopping malls, libraries, community centers, or other public buildings. Even a few hours spent in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you return home.
Electric fans may lend a false sense of comfort when temperatures reach 95 degrees or higher due to creating air flow, but not reducing body temperature. This could increase your risk of heat-related illness. Instead, take a cool shower or bath to cool your body temperature.
Keep your medications with you. If you know extreme weather is coming, make sure you have enough medication on hand to last a few days and contact your healthcare provider if your symptoms do not improve or become worrisome.
Ask for help. The American Lung Association Lung HelpLine at 1-800-LUNGUSA is staffed by nurses and respiratory therapists and is a free resource to answer any questions about lung health – including how to protect yourself during extreme heat.
Help others. Check on elderly and vulnerable neighbors frequently to ensure their homes are safely cooled and vented.
For more information and to get involved, visit Lung.org/disaster. To request an interview with a representative from the American Lung Association, please contact Janye Killelea via email at [email protected] or call (312) 940-7624.
About the American Lung Association
The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease through education, advocacy and research. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to champion clean air for all; to improve the quality of life for those with lung disease and their families; and to create a tobacco-free future. For more information about the American Lung Association, which has a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and is a Platinum-Level GuideStar Member, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit: Lung.org. To support the work of the American Lung Association, find a local event at Lung.org/events.