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Gurugram grapples with breathing disorders as air turns toxic

Gurugram-based health experts said the number of children coming in with respiratory infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia had started increasing when the winter pollution set in more than a month ago.

gurgaon Updated: Nov 27, 2018 16:07 IST
HT Correspodent
HT Correspodent
Hindustan Times, Gurugram
gurugram,AQI,gurugram air quality
Since Diwali, there has been an increase of almost 50% in the number of patients coming in with upper respiratory infections, such as tonsillitis, sore throat and acute bronchitis, at the Civil Hospital, Gurugram.(Sanjeev Verma/HT file )

Gurugram has witnessedhas witnessed a rise in the number of patients complaining of pollution-induced health issues this month, said doctors. Since Diwali, which fell on November 7, there has been a hike of almost 50% in the number of patients coming in with upper respiratory infections such as tonsillitis, sore throat and acute bronchitis at the Civil Hospital in Civil Lines. Private hospitals too reported a 20 to 30% rise this month as compared to the previous month.

Though the city’s air quality index (AQI) improved to the ‘poor’ categoryon November 15 (and has remained poor on most days since) from the ‘very poor’ category that persisted for a week after Diwali, doctors said the damage had already been done. They also warned of the flu that comes with winter and recommended influenza shots for those who are vulnerable and have underlying respiratory problems.

City-based health experts said the number of children coming in with respiratory infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia had started increasing when the winter pollution set in more than a month ago. “Children are more vulnerable to the adverse effects of air pollution because of their higher rates of breathing, developing lungs and narrower airways. They are also more frequently exposed to the outside air,” said Dr Harish Sharma, a city-based pulmonologist, adding that he is seeing more than 22 people a day as compared to 15 a month ago. Dr Manjeeta Das of Columbia Asia Hospital too said that the out-patient department has seen more than 50 cases of acute bronchitis and other respiratory problems every day this month.

A 2018 World Health Organization (WHO) report found that in India, 98% of all children under the age of five are exposed to PM2.5 levels above the WHO’s air quality guidelines. According to a study by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) and Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi (IIT-D), the average annual PM2.5 level in Gurugram is 85.8ug/m3 (micrograms per cubic metre of air). The safe limit, as per the Central Pollution Control Board’s (CPCB) National Ambient Air Quality Standards is 40ug/m3.

Sharma said that the rise in respiratory diseases is common with the change in season and the rise in pollution levels. “When it’s cold, one is more exposed to pollutants as they tend to remain suspend unlike in summers when the warm air drifts the pollutants upwards,” Sharma said.

Dr Himanshu Garg, head of department, respiratory diseases, at Artemis Hospital, said that the sale of respiratory medications has risen by more than 13% in the hospital over the past one month due to the pollution. “But treatment can only help so much. We need to keep a check on the quality of air before we step out. People are reluctant to use masks but they are effective at reducing exposure to particles,” Garg said.

The air in the city is likely to become unhealthier with the fall in temperatures in the coming weeks. Doctors recommended maintaining a healthy lifestyle during this time. “Exercising for a few minutes daily and eating healthy helps combat pollutants. Don’t step out when the AQI is in a ‘very poor’ or ‘severe’ category, unless something urgent comes up,” said Garg.

First Published: Nov 27, 2018 16:06 IST