Environmentalists insist the only long-term solution is to tackle the causes of poor air quality. But experts can offer a few hints to fend off the worst effects.
1. Exercise in a gym. The elderly and those with lung or heart disease have been urged by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to avoid strenuous exercise outside. It’s equally valid advice for anyone who finds themselves coughing or wheezing during times of high pollution, says Dr Keith Prowse, medical adviser to the British Lung Foundation. “If the option is available, exercising in an air-conditioned gym or sports hall is preferable,” he says.
2. Switch off your car’s air conditioning. Because many cars’ air inlets are to the front, exhaust fumes from the vehicle ahead are often sucked inside and circulated, says David Newby, professor of Cardiology at the University of Edinburgh. “If you measure the number of particles inside the car, it’s often higher than on the outside,” he adds. “The better thing to do is wind your window down.”
3. Take the back road to work. “The worst place to be is on a very busy road with tall buildings on either side – you are in a really confined space,” says Rob MacKenzie, professor of atmospheric science at Birmingham University. Even going one road back can make a significant difference, he says, as can avoiding rush hour altogether if possible.