Sandeep Nayar, senior consultant and HoD, Respiratory Medicine, Allergy & Sleep Disorder, B.L.K. Super Speciality Hospital, talks about the combined effects of air pollution, both outside and at home, leading to many premature deaths every year.

Is poor air quality becoming a threat for people? How?

A recent World Health Organization [WHO] report stated that Delhi has very poor air quality. The annual average of the city’s particulate matter (PM) 2.5 was 143 micrograms per cubic metre, over three times the national safe standard, while the PM 10 average was 292 micrograms per cubic metre, more than 4.5 times the national standard.

From smog hanging over cities to smoke inside the home, air pollution poses a major threat to health and climate. The combined effects of ambient [outdoor] and household air pollution cause about seven million premature deaths every year, largely as a result of increased mortality from stroke, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer and acute respiratory infections.

Exposure to ambient air pollution can lead to reduced lung function, respiratory infections and aggravated asthma. Air pollution has become a national public health crisis and respiratory diseases, including asthma, cause 8% of all deaths globally because of it, state the latest WHO estimates.

Have the number of patients in the outpatient department [OPD] coming in with breathing-related issues increased in the recent weeks?

With pollution levels going up, the number of patients in the OPD for asthma generally goes up in this season.

Our hospital has witnessed a nearly 25% rise in patients in the OPD for asthma and other breathing problems. In September, the number of such patients at the Respiratory Medicine Department was nearly 60, which rose to 75 in the first week of October. The number of children coming to the hospital has also increased.

Air pollution affects children the most.

They are particularly vulnerable as they are not always able to express in words that their asthma symptoms are worsening. Common asthma symptoms include coughing, wheezing, tightness in the chest, shortness of breath and awakening at night from coughing or wheezing.

What precautions can be taken?

Older people need to stay indoors to avoid the air pollution. Use of good quality breathing mask can also be a very effective preventive measure. The major concern is asthma and inhalation therapy is the mainstay of treatment for asthma. Inhaled medicines are integral to management of respiratory diseases like asthma.

They deliver drugs directly to the lungs and hence act faster and at a lower dose, thereby reducing the risk of side effects. Patients should opt for effective and easy-to-use inhalers. Do not underutilized your medication or use the inhalers incorrectly

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