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Before heading out into the sunshine, we know to lather up with sunscreen and pack plenty of water. But another important step is to check the ozone forecast; this is especially important for children, the elderly, those with respiratory diseases or heart disease, and asthmatics.
There are two types of ozone, but ground-level ozone is the one you should be concerned about. Ozone occurs naturally in the stratosphere, but ground-level ozone is created when nitrogen oxide (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) chemically react in the sunlight. Ground-level ozone comes from sources like cars and smokestacks.
Ground-level ozone can exacerbate asthma symptoms, but asthmatics can monitor the ozone forecast each day to know if it’s OK to participate in outdoor activities. Elaine Loyack is the program coordinator for Triangle Air Awareness, an organization that helps Triangle-area residents and businesses stay informed about and help improve local air quality. Each summer, she reminds folks about the importance of keeping tabs on the local ozone forecast and to plan their outdoor activity level accordingly.
“Ozone forecast season is the time of the year when the risk for unhealthy levels of ground-level ozone formation is highest,” says Elaine. “In North Carolina, ozone forecast season runs from April 1-October 31.”
What the Ozone Forecast Means for Asthmatics
On unhealthy air quality days, asthmatics should limit time outdoors to the morning and early to late evening. Severe asthma sufferers should avoid the outdoors completely. Asthmatics should also reduce their level of activity, so if you normally run outside, choose a walk instead.
- Code Yellow (Moderate)–dangerous for those suffering extreme asthma.
- Code Orange (Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups), Code Red (Unhealthy), and Code Purple (Very Unhealthy)–dangerous for all asthma sufferers.
Ozone Forecast Resources
Asthmatics can monitor ozone levels by email, phone, the Internet, social media, and through a mobile app. Each day at 3pm, the ozone forecast is published for the following day so folks can plan ahead. Click here to sign up to receive the ozone forecast.