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Foul air chokes Capital, hospitals struggle to keep up

delhi Updated: Nov 27, 2014 00:13 IST
Rhythma Kaul
Rhythma Kaul
Hindustan Times
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Delhi is choking on foul air and is packing hospitals. Wheezing, chest constriction and shortness of breath — hospitals are seeing it all and struggling to keep up with the rush.

Poor air quality coupled with falling temperature had pushed up admissions by almost 30% in the last two weeks, sources said. Emergencies are crowded and ICUs in many hospitals are out of beds.

Most of the people , a majority of them aged 65 and above, are reporting acute bronchitis and severe asthma, with elderly needing specialised care.

“Not just elderly, we are also getting lots of children. The cases have just started coming in so the overload that we are seeing in wards and ICUs is only going to increase in coming days when temperature drops further,” said Dr Prashant Saxena, head of department of pulmonology, Saket City Hospital.

EAllergic rhinitis that causes runny nose and bouts of sneezing, acute bronchitis and aggravated asthma symptoms is also on the rise.

“The numbers in our out patient department have also seen a jump of at least 35%-40% recently. All of them showing asthma-like symptoms,” Dr Nevin Kishore, senior consultant, respiratory medicine, Max Hospital, Saket.

The Capital, which has one of the highest vehicle densities in the country, has been reporting a sharp rise in air pollution in the last few weeks.

Concentration of fine particulate matter 2.5, or PM2.5, and PM 10 -– the measure of air quality – continues to be way above safe levels.

At 1pm, in south Delhi’s RK Puram, particulate matter 10, or PM10, peaked to an alarming 700 µg/m3, against a safe limit of 100 µg/m3.

These particles -- smaller than 10 or 2.5 microns in diameter – are fine enough to lodge deep in the lung and blood tissues and trigger respiratory and cardiac problems as well as lung cancer. Last year, WHO had declared polluted air a carcinogen.

The elderly were more vulnerable, warned doctors. Their immunity was low, and with most of them having at least one underlying medical condition such as diabetes, hypertension etc., chances of worsening of lung condition were higher. People with upper respiratory tract infection were also prone to flare-ups in this weather.