Asthma & Air Pollution Make an Appointment Refer a Patient Ask a Question Reviewed by Flavia Cecilia Lega Hoyte, MD (February 07, 2023) Air pollution is one factor among many that can aggravate asthma. Because people with asthma are always doing their best to avoid irritants, it’s crucial to understand how air pollution can interact with your asthma, along with the symptoms of exposure. Question: Could Air Pollution Cause Asthma? Answer: In general, we don't think of air pollution and asthma as being so directly linked. This is because many parts of the world that are higher in pollution don't necessarily have higher rates of asthma. However, in urban areas of the United States, especially the inner cities, there are higher rates of asthma. This means that air pollution may be one of the factors that cause asthma, though perhaps not the main factor. Question: Does Air Pollution Affect Asthma? Answer: It's very clear that air pollution can make asthma worse. If you live in a city with a lot of air pollution, chances are you will have worse asthma than if you lived in a cleaner environment. Question: What Are Symptoms of Air Pollution Exposure? Answer: Some of the symptoms of air pollution exposure include chest tightness, difficulty with breathing in and coughing or wheezing. Certain types of air pollution can also cause fatigue, including carbon monoxide. Some types of air pollution can also cause eye irritation and nasal congestion. Because of the connection between air pollution and asthma, worsening asthma symptoms may also demonstrate an exposure to pollutants in the air. Question: Who Is Most Affected by Air Pollution? Answer: The groups most affected by air pollution include children and the elderly. People with chronic diseases, such as emphysema, heart disease and asthma are also more susceptible than the general population. We have found that younger children are most susceptible to air pollution-related changes in the lungs and that air pollution effects on health are greatest in children with under-controlled disease. Keeping a child's asthma under good overall control with the proper use of medications and avoidance of daily triggers should also help alleviate air pollution-related effects. Pets & Asthma Clinical Trials For more than 100 years, National Jewish Health has been committed to finding new treatments and cures for diseases. Search our clinical trials.