A dip in temperature below the season’s average and poor air quality have forced several residents to the sick bed. The numbers of cases related to respiratory problems have gone up by 50% in city hospitals in the last 15 days, doctors said.
The minimum temperature was recorded at 5 degrees Celsius -- two degrees below normal-- on Thursday, the Met department said.
Doctors said particulate matter (PM) 2.5 is the most hazardous air pollutant and its level has been on an average nearly six times above normal this season. The PM2.5 level on Thursday was recorded at 396 µg/m³ against a permissible limit of 60 µg/m³.
Pushpa Bishnoi, chief medical officer, Gurgaon, said, “PM 2.5 consists of sulphate, ammonia, nitrates, black carbon, mineral dust and sodium chloride. A rise in these pollutants causes breathing difficulties. There has been a 50% rise in the number of cases related to respiratory problems such as asthma attack, cough, bronchitis, joint pains, fever and complaints regarding dust allergies, in the last 15 days.”
These pollutants are particularly harmful to infants and children and the elderly, Bishnoi said. It is the physiology and anatomy of the respiratory system of children that affects the lungs, she said.
Dr Manish Mannan, HOD, and neonatology, Paras Hospitals Gurgaon, said, “The lungs are not well formed at birth and the development all functions does not occur until approximately six years of age. During early childhood, the bronchial tree is still developing. For example, the number of alveoli in the human lungs increases from 24 million at birth to 257 million at the age of four years, and the lungs epithelium is not fully developed. This results in greater permeability of the epithelial layer in young children.”
Also, children have a larger lung surface area per kilogram of body weight than adults and, under normal breathing, inhale 50% more air per kilogram of body weight than adults, doctors said.
Residents are advised to keep their children indoors and avoid the winter smog. “As the immunity is low during winter, there is a rise is cases related to viral infection and seasonal flu. Low immunity makes it difficult to treat the infection easily,” Dr Manoj Goel, director and unit head, pulmonology and sleep, medicine, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, said.