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We're considering taking a flight in August that connects in Beijing. One of us has mild asthma (usually well controlled) and other health problems that could get worse if the asthma is aggravated.

How bad is the smog? Bad enough to give someone problems after a few hours in an airport terminal?

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This is unanswerable as the smog is highly dependent on weather parameters in Beijing and surroundings. It's like you're asking for a pretty accurate weather forecast of Beijing in August. However, as you're inside I wouldn't worry too much as the smog is mostly present in the open air. I believe large buildings (like the airport) have air filters installed (no source, not sure). If you're really concerned about this you could get a mask that blocks pm2.5 particles. –  Bart Arondson Apr 27 '13 at 12:56
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Thanks, Bart. Of course, I'm not asking for a precise prediction of conditions. More an idea of how bad it could be for someone waiting inside a terminal building. Maybe someone else with asthma who's travelled through Beijing Capital International Airport could share their experience? –  Pitarou Apr 27 '13 at 13:00
    
OK, maybe you should make your question more general then. It's the expected to be in August part that I find non-asnwerable. Smog in Beijing is really unpredictable at this scale. Something like "How bad is the smog for an asthmatic person in a building in Beijing?" would be more suitable I think. –  Bart Arondson Apr 27 '13 at 13:12
    
I mentioned August because I was under the impression that the smog is worst in winter (little rain, lots of coal being burnt). But since you say it's a problem, I've deleted it. –  Pitarou Apr 28 '13 at 6:09
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The airport is quite far from the city center, so for heavy smog, I would expect it to be less in that area. –  Bernhard Apr 30 '13 at 6:38
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'How bad' is hard to argue as it varies from day to day. But regularly in recent times it's been in the news for having awful levels, especially concerning to the athletes and spectators in the 2008 Olympics.

In summer it can be worse as the hot sun aggravates the situation. Others like you with similar concerns have asked the same questions and found some scary responses.

When it comes down to it, the best you can do in smoggy conditions is to stay indoors (most common advice), wear a mask if you really are worried (one that handles the smallest particles - ask your doctor for where to get one), and bring your medicine, just in case.

If you must go outside (sounds like you're not), do it in the early morning when things aren't as bad.

There are several sites with suggestions on how to handle it, but hopefully indoors with air-conditioning and filters you should be partially shielded from the pollutants.

But when health is concerned, above all a doctor is the best to ask. They've been educated / research about these very situations, and will have the best advice to give.

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There are also sites that keep track of the air pollution level. However, the measurements are just an indication and the smog can vary quite a lot between the measurement station and your location. –  Bart Arondson Apr 28 '13 at 22:49
    
Yeah, I was originally going to include some numbers in my answer, and then reading more into it decided it didn't mean much - good or bad luck can mean a tiny amount might affect the asthma, or it might take lots. –  Mark Mayo Apr 29 '13 at 2:24
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