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Respiratory ailments on a high as mercury continues to plummet in Delhi

Doctors say clinics and hospitals are witnessing a 30% increase in patients with breathing difficulties and chest constriction typically associated with acute asthma and chronic bronchitis.

delhi Updated: Jan 04, 2018 10:41 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Winter,Cold,Temperature
Children are more vulnerable to pollution because they breathe faster than adults per unit of body weight, thereby inhaling a higher amount of contaminants that damage their developing airways, lungs and immune system.(Sakib Ali/ HT File)

The number of people with respiratory allergies, disorders and infections in the Capital has shot up due to the falling temperature. The minimum temperature in Delhi fell to five degrees Celsius on Thursday.

Doctors say clinics and hospitals are witnessing a 30% increase in patients with breathing difficulties and chest constriction typically associated with acute asthma and chronic bronchitis. “Many people came to us complaining of symptoms such as wheezing, tightness in chest and breathing difficulty this week. In fact, the number has been on the higher side since Diwali – with the exception of a few weeks in between,” says Dr Srikant Sharma, consultant, medicine department, Moolchand Hospital.

Air pollutants such as particulate matter, sulphur and nitrogen oxides trigger allergies, cough, lung infections, high blood pressure, asthma anxiety, tiredness, diabetes, heart disease and even irreversible lung damage. As humans breathe 15 times a minute and 900 times an hour, prolonged exposure to such high pollution levels can lead to serious health issues.

“Besides respiratory distress, sustained exposure to air pollutants such as sulphur oxide, nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide and particulate matter lowers immunity and raises the risk of viral and bacterial infections,” says Dr RK Singhal, director, department of medicine, BLK Super Speciality Hospital.

When pollution levels are this high, people with a history of lung diseases are not the only ones likely to suffer. “Almost everybody is complaining of throat problems, blocked noses and burning or dry eyes,” says Dr Rajesh Chawla, chest specialist at the Apollo Hospital.

Children are more vulnerable because they breathe faster than adults per unit of body weight, thereby inhaling a higher amount of contaminants that damage their developing airways, lungs and immune system. They are also more likely to breathe through their mouths, bypassing the preliminary filtration system in the nasal passages and – thereby – increasing the amount of pollutants inhaled.

“The symptoms also last for a longer period of time, and do not respond to regular treatment. Some even require antibiotics,” says Dr GC Khilnani, head of pulmonary medicine, All India Institute of Medical Sciences.

The standard advice of doctors is to travel in vehicles with the windows rolled up, use masks outdoors in the mornings (when pollution levels peak because of the cold), and avoid strenuous physical activity that strain the lungs in the morning and evening.

The numbers, however, will keep growing. “The problem is that the most deadly effects of pollution appear over time, leading to heart disease, lung diseases and cancers – among others,” said Dr Chawla.

First Published: Jan 04, 2018 10:40 IST