Are you suffering from a sore throat, runny nose, cough or chest congestion? It may not be due to seasonal flu but high levels of pollutants in the air.
Doctors across the city have been receiving cases of cold and cough from people with no previous history of respiratory illness.
“During the past 24 hours, I have seen a large number of people in my pulmonary out patient department (OPD) with cough and breathlessness without previous history of respiratory illness. I strongly feel it’s due to very poor air quality,” says professor GC Khilnani, pulmonary medicine, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).
Three days before Diwali, the pollution levels in the city have reached scary levels. Data from the Hindustan Times Air Quality Map shows that of the 12 sites in Delhi where the air quality is monitored – 1 had severe air quality, 5 very poor, 4 satisfactory and only 1 good in the afternoon.
East Delhi’s Anand Vihar area was the worst affected with an AQI of 500, which is termed as “severe”. Such situations call for desperate measures like shutting down schools and offices in countries like China.
The severe pollution, caused by an increase in vehicular traffic in the festival season, decreasing temperatures and lack of wind have led to doctors receiving a high number of cases with respiratory ailments in people with no history of respiratory disorders.
Also, due to severe traffic jams people are spending long hours on road, inhaling vehicular fumes, which lead to such symptoms.
“The symptoms of people suffering from respiratory ailments such as asthma or COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) become worse around the time of Diwali because of the high pollution levels and the changing season. This year we are also seeing people with pollution-related cough and runny nose,” said Dr Rajesh Chawla, consulting pulmonologist at Indraprastha Apollo hospital.
He has been receiving more than double the usual number of patients with such symptoms.
“The persistent cough is not responding to usual treatment. Even if I prescribe anti-histamines (anti-allergic medicines) and cough syrup, the symptoms are taking two to three weeks to get better,” he said.
“AIIMS did a study some time back that showed 22% increase in symptoms due to exposure to air pollutants,” said Dr Khilnani.
•When pollution levels are high, do not step out of your home unless it is necessary
•Avoid places with high vehicular density
•Cover nose and mouth with a wet handkerchief
•Use an N95 mask, if you have a history of respiratory illnesses
•Protect yourself against sudden weather change by wearing warmer clothes