For the past few years, increased levels of pollution has become a regular menace in Delhi and NCR. Burning of firecrackers and stubble, dust from construction and last but not the least, smoke from the vehicles, are main reasons for the menace. The lower temperatures in winters and the presence of fog do not let the particulate matter (PM) & pollution dissipate upwards and it stays in the environment leading to infections and disorders of the lungs.
The most dangerous and fatal pollutant is PM2.5. Increased levels of PM2.5 in the environment make the air unfit to breathe in. Consequently, the Air Quality Index (AQI) also gets worse because of the decrease in air flow. Loaded with pollutants like PM2.5 and smoke, this air becomes extremely toxic and hazardous for children and senior citizens of the capital.
Air pollution and the company it keeps:
Being exposed to pollutants for the long haul and keep breathing the toxic air, might lead to infections and disorders of the lung which could require hospitalization. It is advised to be on the lookout for the following infections and diseases:
- Acute Bronchitis – It is an infection of the lungs which is caused due to inflammation of the lining of the bronchial tubes. It could lead to Pneumonia in some people. Chronic Bronchitis leads to COPD.
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) – It is a disorder of the lung characterised by obstructions of the bronchioles for an extended period of time and leads to difficulty in breathing. COPD needs to be diagnosed by a medical professional.
- Pneumonia – Infection of the air sacs in the lungs leading to inflammation. The air sacs get filled with fluid or pus. Pneumonia can prove to be life threatening to children, young adults and senior citizens.
- Emphysema – It is a lung disease that damages the alveoli in lungs. It leads to shortness of breath and difficulty in breathing.
- Asthma – It is a condition in which the airways become inflamed, narrow and swell up. Excessive mucus is produced which makes it extremely difficult to breathe for the person. Pollution can severely aggravate asthmatic symptoms.
- Lung Cancer – It is a type of cancer that begins in the lungs and is a frequent occurrence in people who are exposed to smoke & pollutants or have a habit of smoking. Lung cancers can be treated if detected early.
Actively avoid causing harm to your lungs by:
- Consultation with a Healthcare Professional - if there is cough with sputum production or if there is any difficulty in breathing, it is advised to consult a healthcare professional or a Pulmonologist at the earliest.
- Health check-ups – Some irregularities always reflect in the blood work up and in the Chest X-ray. It is advised to have regular health check-ups.
- Say YES to prevention - Wearing N95 face masks whenever outside can prevent harm to your lungs. Avoid stepping out during peak traffic hours and avoid exercising outdoors when the AQI is high.
- Mind the Indoor AQI – The air inside your homes and offices isn’t really clean hence using air purifiers or HEPA filters would help improve the indoor air quality. There are some plants that help purify the air so you can add those to your home and office. It also adds a green touch to your aesthetic!
- Take those deep breaths – The deep breathing exercises help keep the lungs healthy by increasing the lung volumes and lung capacities. These exercises to be done in the clean air or indoors are also highly recommended for relaxation purposes.
(The writer is Dr Bandana Mishra, Head of Department and Senior Consultant Pulmonology, Sanar Hospitals)