“I often get asked if I'd move, but my life’s here"

London-based Eloise, 31, avoids going out on high pollution days

“My asthma’s difficult to control and a lot of the time it feels like it controls me, even though I take all my meds. I try not to let it take over though: I can work and do things most of the time. I have an action plan so I know when it’s time to either call the nurse at the specialist asthma clinic or go straight to hospital.

Trigger combinations

“I'm never 100% certain about my asthma triggers but I am pretty sure pollution is a major one for me. I live just off a main road, and work in a highly polluted area of central London. I often get asked whether I'd move, mainly by doctors but also people at work who see first-hand how it affects me. However, my life's here and I don't like the countryside except as a place to visit!

“Pollution can be enough to bring on an attack, especially if you combine it with other factors like having a cold, someone spraying perfume, or hay fever. High pollen plus high pollution is a particularly bad combination for me. Weather plus pollution is also risky; hot, humid, still days are the worst because the pollution just sits there. Add in an approaching thunderstorm and my lungs think they're a barometer and react to falling pressure in the air.

“One day last summer I went out for my lunch break and quickly started to notice my chest was tight and it was harder to breathe. The air was like a soup of humidity and pollution - even five minutes outside was too much! I ended up needing to take my reliever inhaler pretty much back to back all afternoon, and wondering if I’d end up in hospital, which was alarming for my colleagues. Luckily, I felt better by the end of the day but for the next few days I avoided going outside too much.

Dealing with poor air

“I use an app to get air quality alerts. When the air quality’s really bad I try not to go out at all, or at least to limit my time outside. I also avoid busy main roads if possible, which is difficult in London!

“I have tried a mask with a filter and I think it helps. However, it can be hard to breathe through it, and it does get hot. I also get a bit fed up with having something over my face so much.

“Also, it’s very noticeable that pollution affects me if we have the window open at work, so I use a fan and keep the windows closed, which is not great when it’s hot. I feel sorry for my colleagues, who are very patient!  

“It can help to let your employer know about your asthma and how it affects you. My work is very understanding about my asthma – so I know that if there was a big air quality issue, such as a Saharan dust storm, I could ask to work from home. It’s better than having me off sick in hospital.

“It's good that awareness about pollution is being kept up, although it can be a little depressing sometimes! I want to see some positive news about what is being done by the government to address the problem. There are a lot of competing issues, but pollution is a major public health issue.”

Find out more about coping with asthma on high pollution days