Saksham Sharma, 12, struggles to breathe each day and uses a nebuliser at night to deliver medicines in vapour form to help his lungs function. The recent burst of rain that settled the dust in Delhi has brought him no respite.
That’s because while visible air pollution may drop when it rains, air quality gets worse as clouds trap toxic gases at ground level.
“Toxins, gases and other air pollutants hang low when the sky is overcast, which aggravates asthma and other respiratory symptoms. Children are the worst hit because their developing immune system, lungs and airways are not as strong as those of adults,” said Dr Randeed Guleria, professor and head of department of pulmonary medicine and sleep disorders, AIIMS.
“Saksham had his first attack when he was just three. Since then, it’s been getting progressively worse. We live in constant fear of him getting an asthma attack,” says Usha Sharma, the Class 7 DPS Noida student’s grandmother who takes care of him when his parents are away at work.
Sharma is among the many thousands of children who have asthma and other breathing disorders triggered and aggravated by Delhi’s air — the dirtiest for any city in the world, according to the World Health Organization.
Forty percent of Delhi’s children have weak lungs, showed a four-city survey of 2,000 children released last month. Lung damage was worst among the Capital’s children with 21% of those affected having very low lung function.
Worried parents are either keeping their children indoors or considering the extreme step of leaving the city. “I once took my baby son to a crowded market and he started coughing soon after. It was then that I realised the extent of the problem. Now I just keep my children home,” says Rashmi Valecha, 35, a business consultant and mother of two.
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