I thought it was time to invest in something to protect my lungs after I read an article a couple of weeks back that suggested certain pollutants put cyclists at risk of getting chest infections. Suddenly a light bulb went off in my head. Ding!
I have had a series of chest infections — two alone this year — ever since I acquired pneumonia back in November 2006. I put it down to stress and a weakened immune system. But I eat well and exercise regularly, so how come I kept succumbing to upper respiratory tract infections? It puzzled me — and it puzzled my doctor.
Then I read a piece in the londonpaper on August 18 (sorry, I couldn't find a link online) which said that the most damaging pollutants, such as PM10s found in diesel exhaust, are so tiny that they travel straight into your lungs. Sometimes these particles are coated with further pollutants and once inhaled they inflame the lung tissue or air tubes.
A doctor quoted in the article said: "As well as causing chest tightness and breathlessness, this can up your chances of catching a chest infection."
I often experience chest tightness and breathlessness on my evening commute. I usually cough for a short period too. I suspected it was a mild form of asthma. Now I'm certain it's triggered by pollution.
Similarly, I often have a funny mucous-like tickle in the base of my throat of an evening and I had put this down to my system still getting over the pneumonia. But I haven't felt this tickle for about two months. Last week it returned, coinciding with my return to more regular cycling. Hmmm.
So I ordered a Respro Techno Anti-Pollution Mask online (£29.99) — I chose the one with the gold filter — and it arrived on Saturday. I was scared of using it, thinking I'd feel claustrophobic, but it wasn't too bad. The only problem I had was the resulting condensation on the inside of the mask and the heat: it gets bloody hot in there!
And, for the first time since I don't remember when, I arrived home tonight without wheezing or coughing. I think the thing might work!
Total distance: 12.26 miles | Ride time: 1hr, 12min and 55sec | Average speed: 10.66mph | Top speed: 16.6mph