Take a deep breath and don't worry, we've got some top-shelf tips to avoid air pollution.

"It's like trying to breathe through a tiny, tiny straw," said Samantha Kamen. Not even a regular straw, but like one of those little red coffee stirrers.

This is how Kamen, marketing and communications manager for the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, describes an asthma attack. It's a condition she's had since she was young. "It's a really scary feeling."

One of the top causes of an asthma attack? Air pollution. And it doesn't just affect asthma sufferers. More than half of Americans live in areas with unhealthy levels of air pollution. And it's been associated with heart disease, lung cancer, and respiratory problems.


Luckily, it's not a hopeless cause. There are lots of things people can do to help limit their exposure and reduce air pollution in their own communities. Here are 10 of them.

1. Know thy enemy with some daily recon.

AIRNow is a website by the EPA that gives daily air quality ratings for your area. Check it before going out the door. And if you're on the go, they have an app for iPhone and Android as well!

2. Know which way the wind is blowing.

Turns out weather forecasts don't just tell you rain or shine, they can also predict the wind. Check out your local weather station or weather.com for wind forecasts. If you know you're about get a face full of freeway exhaust, it might be time to close those windows.

3. Opt for the morning workout.

Your lungs might thank you for not hitting that snooze. One of the most common components of air pollution, ozone, tends to peak during warm, sunny afternoons. Ozone: good up high in the atmosphere, bad in your lungs. If you're planning on exercising, consider taking advantage of the morning's relatively cleaner air or do indoors activities instead.

4. Bundle your chores and trips together.

If air pollution is bad on any particular day, try to keep trips outside to a minimum by bundling chores and errands into one trip. Instead of going for a walk in the morning, then to the dry cleaners in the afternoon, then to the store to pick up milk in the evening, one trip out can limit your exposure. (And psst: See #7 below. Driving around less is great news for the air we breathe too.)

5. Keep those pollutants out of your home.

Why bring trouble home with you? Don't smoke indoors or burn trash or wood. Buy electric power and lawn tools when you can, rather than gas-powered ones. Be aware of things like scented candles. Those fragrances might smell nice, but they can sometimes dump pollutants into the air you breathe.

If you need a little extra help getting the toxins out of your home, you can purchase high-efficiency air filters. They catch a lot of the floating particles that make up smog and other forms of air pollution, purifying the air in your house.

6. Enjoy the great outdoors.

One way to get away from man-made pollution is to get out of the city altogether. Maybe instead of hitting up a city park for a picnic, find a nice spot in the countryside instead.

Need some ideas? Check out the National Park Services' Find a Park feature.

7. Ditch the car.

Cars are one of the biggest contributors to air pollution. Travel by carpool or public transportation, whenever possible. Fewer cars on the road mean fewer emissions, after all. If you live in a place where you have to drive, keep your engine up to snuff, tires filled, and don't idle (and ask your local schools not to idle the buses too).

8. Change those lightbulbs.

GIF from "Parks and Recreation."

Not only will you be able to see better at night, but replacing old lightbulbs and refrigerators with energy efficient ones means a lighter load at the power plant. If it's a coal or gas-fired plant, that means less emissions. Plus, it'll save you some money. Win-win.

9. Finally, encourage your city or state to join in as well.

Call your city's mayor or state representative and help push for policies that will cut down on air pollution. The World Health Organization notes that, unfortunately, many of the biggest sources of air pollution, like industrial factories or freeways, are really out of an individual person's hands. That's why it's important for cities and states to take action and encourage things like mass transit, clean energy, and better urban planning.

*Takes deep breath*

We can feel the air getting cleaner already!

This snuggly-looking fella loves breathing easier.

Family
Facebook / Mikhail Galin

Putting your pet in cargo during a flight isn't always safe. In 2016, the Department of Transportation reported a total of 26 pet deaths and 22 injuries on flights. Because conditions in cargo can be uncomfortable for animals, the Humane Society recommends taking your pet aboard when you fly, or just leaving it at home.

It's not surprising that one Russian man didn't want to put his overweight cat in cargo during an eight-hour flight from Moscow to Vladivostok. What is surprising is the great lengths he took to fly with his four-legged friend.

Russian airline Aeroflot allows pets to fly inside the plane's cabin, as long as the cat weighs under 17.6 pounds and stays in its carrier during the flight. When Mikhail Galin went to check in, he was told he couldn't fly with his four-year old cat, Viktor. Viktor weighed in at 22 pounds and would have to be relegated to cargo.

But Viktor was sick from their earlier flight from Riga, Latvia to Moscow. And besides, Viktor had been allowed to fly inside the cabin during that flight. The airline staff didn't even bother to make Viktor sit on the scales. Galin was unable to persuade staff to bring his fur baby on board.

"To all attempts to explain that the cat won't survive there on an 8-hour flight with the baggage and would haunt her in her nightmares for the rest of her life, she (the Aeroflot staff member) replied that there are rules," Galin wrote in a Facebook post translated from Russian.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
Photo by Kelvin Octa from Pexels

Newborn babies don't seem to do much beyond eating and pooping and, of course, hiccupping. A lot. Parenting advice on how to cure a baby's hiccups runs the whole gamut. It's recommended parents try everything from nursing to stop feeding the baby so much, from giving the baby gripe water to letting the hiccups play their course. But when your baby hiccups too much, you shouldn't freak out. There's a good reason why.

A new study published in Clinical Neurophysiology found that hiccups play an important role in a baby's development. Researchers from the University College London found 217 babies for their study, but only looked at 13 newborns with persistent hiccups. Ten of those babies hiccupped when they were awake, and three hiccupped during their "wriggly" sleep. We have no idea how the scientists got any work done with all that cuteness lying around.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
via The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon / YouTube

Actress Kristen Bell and "The Tonight Show" host Jimmy Fallon showed off their vocal and comedic chops on Tuesday night when the performed a medley of 17 Disney songs, spanning nine decades, in just five minutes.

The duo started with 1940's "When You Wish Upon a Star" and ended with 2013's "Let it Go" from "Frozen."

Bell will reprise her role as Anna in Disney's upcoming "Frozen 2."

Keep Reading Show less
popular

Ask almost any woman about a time a man said or did something sexually inappropriate to them, and she'll have a story or four to tell. According to a survey NPR published last year, 81% of women report having experienced sexual harassment, with verbal harassment being the most common. (By contrast, 43% of men report being sexually harassed. Naturally harassment toward anyone of any sex or gender is not okay, but women have been putting up with this ish unchecked for centuries.)

One form of verbal sexual harassment is the all too common sexist or sexual "joke." Ha ha ha, I'm going to say something explicit or demeaning about you and then we can all laugh about how hilarious it is. And I'll probably get away with it because you'll be too embarrassed to say anything, and if you do you'll be accused of being overly sensitive. Ha! Won't that be a hoot?

Keep Reading Show less
popular