All of 10 years, little Asma Kabir is learning to use the asthma spacer — the add-on device used to increase the ease of administering aerosolised medication from an inhaler. She was prescribed the inhaler this December, as excessive cold and cough left her panting for breath.
“Asma was down with acute cold, combined with sore throat. When none of the regular cough medicines and gargles helped, doctors suggested that we switched her to inhaler,” said Protima Kabir, her mother.
With respiratory infections on a rise in the Capital, more and more doctors are prescribing inhalers and nebulisers to ease breathing and lung congestion.Rukmini Sachdev, 31, was asked to take the nebuliser to ease the lung congestion after she complained of heavy wheezing. "I thought I had asthma when doctor asked me to use the nebuliser and inhaler. But the doctor assured me this was the only way to fight the respiratory stress," she said.
Doctors say cases of asthma and bronchitis rise during winters. “Moreover, staying indoors and in front of heaters, people are more exposed to dry heat and allergens which aggravates the problems,” said Dr Randeep Guleria, head, department of respiratory medicine, AIIMS.
“We are prescribing inhalers to patients of broncho-spasma and bronchitis. Kids, who are unable to take inhalers, are being advised nebulisers,” he said, adding that there has been a significant rise of 15- 20% in respiratory stress cases.
“At the start of winters, the incidence of upper respiratory tract infections increases. A lot of patients come to us with pharyngitis, rhinitis and sinusitis,” said Dr KK Handa, senior ENT specialist at Medanta, the Medicity in Gurgaon.
“Patients must seek medical help at the outset otherwise these can progress to laryngitis and lower respiratory tract infections,” he warned.
Doctors say the respiratory syncytial virus breeds in the cold. “Pollutants don’t rise high up in the atmosphere as the air is heavy, leading to breathing difficulty,” said a senior paediatrician at Lok Nayak hospital.
“The use of nebulisers is the best way to help children ease lung congestion as medicine from nebulisers goes directly to the lungs,” he said.