Categories: Pulmonology

Air Pollution and COPD

Delhi finds hard to breathe as the AQI continues to worsen

Every year this time of festivals brings joy and happiness along with the extra stress of soaring levels of pollution in Delhi/NCR’s air. Considering the ongoing COVID 19 pandemic people are seen to be more conscious and aware about the virus spread and taking enough precautions for better safety. But the air pollution and COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) along with other respiratory issues have already been some of the tough challenges long before this pandemic introduced itself to us. Although precautions related to COVID 19 infection are surely required to be taken at the same time other breathing issues should also be taken seriously as people already dealing with respiratory issues are more at the risk of catching COVID 19 infection in its worst form. Some studies also have suggested that the rising level of pollution may add to the risk of increasing number of COVID 19 infection cases. As the air quality remained under the “severe” category in recent days respiratory problems are one of the prime health concerns in the country. A number of people stepping out of their house are complaining about a sudden difficulty in breathing, coughing, sneezing and a slight burning sensation in eyes. Considering the situation it’s not that difficult to think about the condition of the people dealing with respiratory issues, pollution and other factors involved are adding to the challenges.  A comprehensive discussion is the need of the hour with its various dimensions.

Following 10th November 2020 news reports as per Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) the AQI in ITO was recorded 469. Air Monitoring agency SAFAR suggested that AQI ranging between 51 and 100 is taken as “satisfactory”, 101-200 as moderate, 201-300 as poor and 300-400 as “very poor” and 401-500 as “hazardous”. Along with environmental risk factors, the quest of survival is upfront now. The real picture our statistics show is not mere eye opening rather pushing us all to take comprehensive action and bring this number down. Statistics may hit our basic understanding about the thick layer of pollution we are living with but it definitely hits harder our lungs and entire respiratory system.

Pollution and Challenges of COPD and Asthma:-

Although pollution is hazardous for overall well being but lungs functioning is primarily at risk. Undoubtedly this is pushing COPD and asthma patients a big-time challenge. Also, the section of children falling in this category is a major concern. According to a study, COPD is the third leading cause of death in the world, which is expected to increase in upcoming years. In recent years Delhi was also declared as one of the most polluted cities in the world. Hence when people in Delhi are already inhaling toxic air they are more at the risk of getting COPD and Asthma. Along with this lung cancer is generally considered to be most common in chain smokers but apart from it being one of the common cancers interestingly in this data the number of non-smokers was recorded around 30 to 40 percent and pollution is also adding to the list of its causes. Talking about pollution the role of inhalation of PM 2.5 particles cannot be denied in the development of COPD and other respiratory issues. Hence the prevailing condition is although not satisfactory but with comprehensive efforts this can be dealt with wisely. People should be more aware about their health concerns

Things to be taken care of by Asthma and COPD patients in such scenario:-

  • Always keep your inhaler and other prescribed medicines in your bag etc.
  • Always wear a mask for protection.
  • Avoid coming in direct contact with open air.
  • Avoid going out in early morning and late evening.
  • Never hesitate to seek help in need.
  • Keep the nutrition value high. Keep water intake right.
  • Contact doctor even in case of minor difficulty in breathing or coughing or severe headache.

Even if one is not suffering from one of such severe diseases one must be more careful about his or her lungs and take proper precautions as the level of pollution right now not right even for the general public. Precautions are must:-

  • Always wear mask before stepping out of the house.
  • Refrain from morning walks and other daily exercise routines outdoor.
  • Never avoid any symptoms which lead to any lung diseases like severe coughing, continuous sneezing, difficulty in breathing etc. considering them to be temporary issues. Rather seek doctor’s help in such case.
  • Take every required precaution to reduce the risk of further COVID infection spread.

Government is taking steps to combat the challenges, many activists and organisations are at work. A lot is being done but still comprehensive steps need to be taken to fight with the situation. More participation by the general public is required to fight against such a hazardous situation. Keep air purifiers at home if possible. Refrain from burning crackers; stop your vehicle’s engine on red light. Taking such baby steps by everyone also adds to the positive change we expect to bring in our society.

Fear of COVID and other infections: – It is also being observed that a number of patients are not reporting to the hospital in the fear of catching infection. As a result, the situation is only going to worsen. Considering the hospital area to be dealing with COVID 19 infected patients a number of patients chose to refrain from reporting to the hospital. But one has to understand that this is only going to worsen the condition of the patients and patients dealing with other diseases. Patients dealing with COPD and asthma should also be careful in this regard. As avoiding treatment in the fear of infection may not be the guarantee of never catching COVID at all but as a result on one hand it will worsen the lungs function also COVID is comparatively severe for such patients. Hence avoid getting it worse.

Dr. Navneet Sood, Consultant Pulmonology, Dharamshila Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, Delhi

Narayana Health

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