Increased ozone levels are a burden for allergy sufferers and asthmatics

Increased ozone levels are a burden for allergy sufferers and asthmatics

“Let’s get out,” many say when the sun beckons. But many a person experiences a nasty surprise when they get on their bikes in the best summer weather:  headacheswatery eyes  or  a cough  – the range of problems caused by increased  ozone levels  is wide. After all, about ten to 15 percent of the population react sensitively to increased ozone concentrations. “Especially people with  hay fever  or  asthmahave to reckon with severe breathing difficulties when ozone levels are high,” says Professor Johannes Ring from the German Society for Allergology and Clinical  Immunology  (DGAI).  standardized allergens (allergy vaccination), long-term relief of symptoms is achieved in most cases.

Ozone triggers inflammatory processes

Ozone has already made negative headlines several times. In the upper layers of the air, the ozone concentration continues to decrease. The result is the notorious ozone holes. On the other hand, near the ground, the average ozone concentrations increase from summer to summer. Here, ozone is the main component of the so-called summer smog, which is made up of many pollutants.

Intense solar radiation, general vegetation, air pollution and certain weather conditions lead to the formation of ozone at ground level and at the same time prevent the removal of this irritant gas. A sad balance of the beautiful, but ozone-polluted weather: A third more asthmatics come to the emergency departments than on days with low ozone values.

Ozone can make hay fever and asthma worse

Ozone and other components of summer smog cause the increased release of allergens. However, the main problem is that ozone is not retained by the mucous membranes of the upper respiratory tract, but penetrates deep into the bronchi. There it breaks down into aggressive oxygen radicals that can cause inflammation in the surrounding tissue. If allergens are then inhaled, they can have a much more immediate effect.

Summer smog is doubly bad for those affected. There are more allergens in the air and ozone promotes allergic reactions by damaging lung tissue. Ozone not only aggravates existing respiratory diseases, it may even promote the development of asthma.

This was the result of an American study of 3,500 children last year. The more sport is practiced outdoors with high ozone concentrations, the higher the risk of developing a respiratory disease. Nevertheless, one does not need to educate one’s children to be couch potatoes. According to the American scientists, there is no increased risk if you refrain from strenuous exertion outdoors when ozone levels are high.

No effort at ozone peaks

How often do we have to reckon with increased ozone levels in summer? The Federal Environment Agency receives data from more than 360 measuring stations and proves that dangerous ozone peak values ​​are now reached less frequently. Despite this, mean ozone pollution continues to rise. In 2001, the ozone concentrations at individual measuring stations were over 180 micrograms per cubic meter of air (mu)g/m3) on 33 days and even over 240 (mu)g/m3 on seven days. From 180 (mu)g/m3 the population is informed about the ozone danger. Allergy sufferers and asthmatics in particular then have to reckon with health problems. If 360 (mu)g/m3 ozone in the air is exceeded, there is also an acute danger for healthy people.

If ozone levels are high, physical exertion outdoors should be avoided. Because exertion or sport makes us breathe deeper, so more ozone penetrates much further into the lungs.


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