What to keep in mind when visiting smoggy cities.

By John Scarpinato
Updated: January 21, 2017
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This week, Diwali celebrants were greeted with government warnings as smog levels in New Delhi were projected to rise as much as 170% during the days surrounding the festival of lights (in reality, pollution levels soared to 40 times the recommended limit on Wednesday evening).

While those numbers are frightening, citizens in New Delhi are accustomed to protecting themselves from dirty air. India is consistently ranked for its smog, and last year, 13 of the top 20 most polluted cities in the world were in India, according to a World Health Organization (WHO) report that ranked nearly 1,600 cities in 91 countries for air quality. New Delhi was at the top of the list.  

Other countries are just as notorious when it comes to smog. Take China, for instance. Last Sunday, air pollution in the city of Shenyang reached the highest level on record in the country at 50 times above what the WHO deems safe, according to the Associated Press. The air was so thick that flights were grounded and highways closed.

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Though leaders have vowed to take steps to reduce pollution, citizens have continued to protect themselves, and as a traveler, you should to.

First, it’s important to simply research where you’re going and know if your destination struggles with pollution. To start, check local news sources or the WHO air pollution chart. If you’re visiting Beijing, there’s even a Twitter feed with updates regarding air quality.

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Additionally, the Travel Insurance Review suggests that travelers check with their doctor to determine whether it’s necessary to pack a breathing mask, inhaler, or medication. Those with asthma or a history of cardiac disease should take extra precaution to limit their exposure. I

It’s also important to listen to local warnings while abroad. If an alert says to stay indoors, it is important to limit your outdoor activity, even if you're healthy. Pollution can put a real damper on your trip, but it’s more important to stay safe, so have a few indoor backup plans (think museums, galleries, shopping destinations) ready for those thick smog days.