Diwali revelry coupled with the onset of winters spells trouble for city dwellers. Every year, the air pollution levels, especially in Delhi, the National Capital Region (NCR) and other large cities, plummet to hazardous levels owing to bursting of firecrackers, crop burning, and vehicular pollution.
The lungs are one of the most important organs that get affected by their
exposure to environmental agents. “With winter conditions setting in, the dust and particulate material from vehicular pollution and smoke from crackers have caused smog-like conditions. We have seen a significant spike in people reporting respiratory problems in such weather and environmental conditions. Common complaints include cough and breathlessness,” says Dr Shuchin Bajaj, Founder Director, Ujala Cygnus Group of Hospitals.
Factors affecting lung health
Air pollution definitely interferes with lung defences, thus resulting in the development of pulmonary diseases, such as exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, allergies and asthma.
“With the winter setting in and Diwali season , we have seen an appreciable reduction in the temperature and increase in the ambient pollution level. These pollutants essentially when inhaled by the person cause respiratory symptoms such as increased cough, breathlessness, sputum production and wheezing,” opines Dr. Arunesh Kumar, Senior Consultant & Head of Department of pulmonology at Paras hospital , Gurgaon.
“People who have a history of respiratory disease such as asthma, COPD, interstitial lung disease, notice that their symptoms start deteriorating,” he adds.
“Spending a few minutes in such air may cause conjunctivitis, shortness of breath along with headache, sleepiness and reduced alertness, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain,” says Dr Akshay Budharaja, Pulmonologist, Aakash Healthcare.
Importance of Respiratory Health
Lungs are important. Period. They help us breathe and are necessary to sustain life on earth. Each cell in the body needs oxygen to live and survive.
“Our respiratory system assists our bodies in absorbing oxygen from the air so that our organs can function properly. It is critical because it removes waste gases such as carbon dioxide from our blood, provides protection to our airways from harmful substances, delivers oxygen to our cells, and most importantly helps us in the inhaling and exhaling process,” says Nevin Kishore Head of Bronchology & Senior Consultant – Respiratory Medicine Max Hospital, Gurugram
Ways to improve lung health
It is imperative to take care of your lungs at this moment in time. “Breathing exercises, yoga, Pranayam, swimming and all other exercises which can improve your lung function and are beneficial for lung health,” says Dr Kishore.
“Avoid early morning and late evening walks as concentration of pollutants is highest during this period. Schools should avoid outdoor assemblies, sports activities and other physical activities in the early morning hours,” suggests Dr Budharaja
Prioritize cleaning of rooms used for sleeping and use air purifiers, and seal windows to prevent outdoor pollutants coming inside. Use plants like Aloe Vera and Ivy inside the home for purifying the air.
“Do not smoke to prevent aggravated lung diseases – inhaling polluted air is equivalent to smoking 50 cigarettes a day,” says Dr Budharaja
Avoid driving personal cars, scooters and other motorized vehicles and opt for shared rides or public transportation to work. This will prevent adding to the existing high levels of pollution.
“Mask is very important during this time because it will give you dual protection against COVID virus as well as pollutants. Keep your doors and windows closed during extreme pollution levels,” shares Dr Kumar.
Following a nutrient-rich diet, can help protect your lungs and even reduce lung damage. Include beets and beet greens, peppers, apples, pumpkin, turmeric, red cabbage, barley and lentils in your diet.