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Health Spotlight: Study finds pollution protection important during pregnancies

Health Spotlight: Pregnancy, pollution and problems

(WISH) — A study reveals ways women can protect themselves from the health risks of exposure to pollution during pregnancy.

Being pregnant makes women vulnerable to many infections, but the study published in April from Texas A&M University researchers found a possible reason for an increased risk of respiratory viral infections, such as the flu, in pregnant women.

Wildfires in Canada causing smoky air in the United States don’t just cause hazy skies. Dr. Sharon Chinthrajah, an associate professor of medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine, said,
“The air quality was severely impacted. I saw a lot more of my asthmatic patients coming in. They couldn’t breathe.”

People with asthma were not the only ones affected by air pollutants. The study found pollution from wildfires, traffic and even poor indoor air quality produces ultrafine particles, or UFPs, that can increase a pregnant woman’s risk for getting the flu.

Having the flu while pregnant increases the risk of low birth weight and even miscarriages. But, pregnant women can protect themselves.

  • Check the area’s air quality with weather apps or using the government website
  • Avoid going outside if the air quality is low as air pollutants can still be absorbed through the skin.
  • Invest in a home air purifier.
  • Get the flu shot.

Sun Joo Ahn, an associate professor of advertising at the University of Georgia, said, “When they vaccinate, it’s not just about them, but it’s also about the people very close to them.”

The researchers say air pollution was responsible for 1 in 9 deaths, and, despite proof that the flu vaccine is safe and effective for pregnant women, less than 50% of them ever get the flu shot.

This story was created from a script aired on WISH-TV. Health Spotlight is presented by Community Health Network.