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People experiencing respiratory symptoms post-Diwali

cities Updated: Oct 29, 2019, 19:14 IST

New Delhi

Walkers, joggers and cyclists are complaining of difficulty in breathing, itchy throat, and watery eyes after the pollution levels spiked. Doctors also say there has been an increase in the number of patients coming in with asthma and other respiratory allergies.

The number of people with asthma and other allergic respiratory ailments went up by at least up by 15% at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) since Sunday night.

“We see this spike every year after Diwali. People come in with their symptoms worsening as the pollution levels increase. However, what is more concerning, is healthy people coming in with upper respiratory tract allergies and allergic coughing that refuses to heal. We have to treat it just like asthma,” said Dr Karan Madan, assistant professor of pulmonary medicine, AIIMS.

The doctors have to prescribe steroid-based inhalers and nasal drops. “These symptoms sometimes persist for as long as two to three weeks and the patients have to be on the medicines for three to four weeks. This is like seasonal asthma – the symptoms heal after the pollution levels improve but many in my clinic come back again and again with the symptoms,” he said.

There is a need for a longitudinal study on healthy individuals getting asthma due to prolonged exposure to polluted air, he says.

People have reported these issues despite the air pollution levels after Diwali being lower than last year, after a ban on normal crackers. The level of particulate matter of 10 micrometres or less in size increased from 287 the day before to 337 on the day of Diwali and 368 and 400 the next day.

“The PM2.5 on Deepawali day was found lower by 40 µg/m3 and PM10 was also found lower by 41 µg/m3 in 2019 as compared to 2018 Deepawali day,” according to the Central Pollution Control Board.

Nilotpal Dey, who works with the All India Radio, had heard about Delhi’s air pollution on the news but experienced it first-hand last year after moving to the city. “I used to live in Safdarjung and while coming back from work my eyes would start watering. I feel the pollution levels are lower here in Central Delhi, but there is still some trouble breathing during morning walks,” he said.

After somebody suggested he give up his morning walks, he bought a mask. “I have been following this routine for years now and it is not easy for me to stop. So, as a precaution, I bought a mask and when I take it off after reaching home, I can actually feel the difference in the air quality for a few seconds,” said Dey.

Sitla Prasad Tripathi, a regular walker for 28 years, checks the pollution levels before stepping out in the morning. “I can feel the difference in the air quality post-Diwali. When it gets very high, I switch to Yoga at home,” he said.

“I can feel my speed and stamina going down when pollution increases. I feel breathless while cycling and sometimes get chest congestion, said Uday Bhan Singh, a retired government officer who goes to India Gate every morning.

Two NGOs have even written to BCCI President Saurav Ganguly to change the venue of the India Bangladesh T20 scheduled for November 3 at Feroz Shah Kotla stadium, citing the example of Sri Lankan players using pollution masks during a 2017 game.

“Any outdoor aerobic activity raises the respiration rate of the human body, thus depositing even higher levels of toxins into our lungs and organs. Any match played outdoors harms the health and very lives of the players and it is irresponsible to schedule such sporting activities during times of such toxic air quality,” the letter said.

The number of people landing up in hospitals due to severe asthma attack, however, went down. “We always see an increase of about 25% in the number of patients with allergic issues at the onset of winters. This is due to multiple factors like cold weather, pollen in the air and pollution. However, this year it was a quiet Diwali for us in the emergency department; there weren’t many cases of asthma attacks on Diwali night,” said Dr Nevin Kishore.


How to protect yourself from air-pollution

*Check pollution levels on apps before stepping out. Reduce exposure, stay indoors if possible.

*Cover nose, mouth with wet cloth or mask when out. Surgical masks do not help. Use N95 or N99 masks.

*On smoggy mornings, late evenings, avoid high-intensity outdoor exercise.

*Emissions from vehicle exhaust most common pollutant. Avoid walking or exercising near busy roads.

*Roll up windows when driving on busy road or in a traffic jam. Use recycle air feature in car instead of air vents.

*Construction dust a major polluter. Avoid such sites. Keep doors and windows shut if construction on near your house.

*If you have respiratory problems like asthma, make sure you take your medicines regularly.

*Eat well: Eat a proper healthy diet to boost your body’s immunity.

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