New Delhi: As if the coronavirus scare was not enough. In view of the deadly smog that has engulfed the national capital, health experts on Sunday said they have seen a substantial increase in patients with respiratory disorders in the Delhi-NCR region.
Air pollution is an important cause of worsening of respiratory disorders, including sinusitis, allergic rhinitis, bronchitis and respiratory difficulty in those patients who do not smoke or have pre-asthmatic conditions.
According to experts, air pollution also plays a significant role in making COVID infections worse.
Dr. Praveen Gupta, Director and Head, Neurology, Fortis Hospital in Gurugram told IANS: "Pollution has been identified as a leading cause of stroke and heart disease increasing the risk by 25 per cent in people who do not have risk factors for stroke or any heart ailment."
"Exposure to high levels of air pollutants may cause irritation to the eyes, nose and throat, wheezing, coughing, breathing problems. Air pollution can also affect existing lung and heart conditions," he added.
Smog can cause irritation in the eyes, throat and can damage the lungs, can also lead to fatigue, migraine, headaches, anxiety and depression.
"It can also worsen the skin, cause allergic disorders as well as significant hair problems," Gupta added.
He has observed a 25 per cent increase in patients with respiratory disorders in the OPD in past weeks.
Dr. Puneet Khanna, HOD and consultant-Respiratory Medicine, HCMCT Manipal Hospitals in Delhi said that as the winter approaches, smog is exacerbated by low temperature and slow movement of air.
"Ground-level ozone O3 and PM2.5 play a significant role in the formation of smog. Besides industrial activities and public transportation, stubble burning and road dust are majorly responsible for smog in winters," Khanna informed.
The vulnerable group include newborns and children, pregnant women, elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions such as asthma, chronic bronchitis, diabetics, angina and cardiac diseases.
Peaks in air pollution often irritate the upper and lower respiratory system making it harder to breathe besides aggravating symptoms of asthma and COPD.
According to Dr. Khanna, even a small increase in air pollution leads to heavy rush in OPDs, increased emergency room visits, hospitalisations and deaths. Long-term risks include lung cancer and reduction in life expectancy.
"During smog periods, these people should avoid intense physical activity outdoors particularly in morning and evening hours. They should venture out if absolutely essential and preferably wear an N95 mask during peak hours," he said.
Dr. Navneet Sood, Pulmonary Consultant, Dharamshila Narayana Superspeciality Hospital said that "the apparent effect of air amid COVID pandemic is creating more problems for people living in Delhi-NCR".
"A comprehensive approach is needed to deal with the problem. Wear a mask whenever stepping out of the house, avoid going out early morning and late evening, follow every precaution related to COVID-19," Sood advised.