As Delhi's air quality continues to remain 'very poor', hospitals struggle to deal with rising cases of respiratory diseases

With Delhi's air quality remaining in the 'very poor' category, hospitals are facing a tough time dealing with rising cases of respiratory diseases.

“In the last one week the number of patients with respiratory disorders such as asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease have increased drastically. In the emergency ward we are treating 15 to 20 patients everyday. This number would certainly go up if we also include the outdoor patients who come for treatment of respiratory diseases,” says Dr Abhishek Sharma, medical superintendent of Vinayak Hospitals in Noida.

 As Delhis air quality continues to remain very poor, hospitals struggle to deal with rising cases of respiratory diseases

An under-construction building is shrouded in smog in Delhi. Reuters

He said that due to heavy pollution in the air, oxygen concentration in human body takes a dip, as a consequence of which physical disorders show up aggressively.

“We have observed changes in breathing patterns of patients, which is not at all a sign of a healthy body. Breathing in Delhi for a day at present is as bad as smoking 10 cigarettes a day,” he added.

He says that these patients require immediate emergency treatment to help them breathe.

“We nebulize them or treat them with oxygen immediately, to ensure that they can breathe,” he says.

Dr Akash Raj, a physician in the Noida Pediatrics and Super Speciality Hospital and Post Graduate Institute says that normally the number of patients with diseases such as dengue, chikungunya and other fevers decrease during the autumn, but increasing number of patients with respiratory disorders in Delhi due to pollution keep the total number of patients equally high.

“The smog that settles down in Delhi’s air during winter makes it difficult for children and elderly people to breathe. The most common symptoms of respiratory problems are cough, cold and asthma,” said the physician who is treating 25 to 30 patients every day suffering from respiratory disorders.

"The trend is similar every year. We received similar number of patients during this period last year also,” says Dr Sharma.

He also adds that the age group of patients his hospital is receiving at present is within 50 to 55 years.

Dr KK Agarwal, a renowned cardiologist said that there is at least 10 percent increase in patients with respiratory disorders this year, despite government’s claim that pollution has decreased.

“Marginal decrease in air pollution level is unlikely to help in controlling its impact on health, because pollution always has negative impact on health,” he said.

As per a recent report by the Central Government, stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana has decreased by 30 percent. But this has hardly impacted the health concerns in Delhi in any desirable way.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, which is one of the diseases believed to be caused by exposure to polluted air has been seen on rise among Delhiites.

India health of the Nation’s States Report, compiled by Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in the year 2017 says that from the year 1990 to 2016 Loss of Years due to ill health caused by Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease rose from 2.6 percent to 4.1 percent.

He further added that respiratory diseases have also shown bigger presence among Delhiites this year.

Explaining why the impact of pollution on health is continuously rising in Delhi Dr Agarwal says, “Every 10 mcg/m3 increase in pollution there is significant increases in the risk of a cardiovascular event, death from heart disease, and stroke, PM2.5 concentration is associated with the risk of cardiac death.”

At 4 pm, Saturday, Delhi’s present Air Quality Index stands at 177 (for Pm 2.5) and 335 (PM10), a level marked as ‘Very Poor’. The levels of the two pollutants were even higher earlier, touching severe levels for both pollutants on 30 October.

He also says that there is a direct relationship between the levels of particulate pollution and reported rates of chronic cough and bronchitis.

“Asthma is related to specific pollutants, while other respiratory diseases are related to total air pollution,” he says.

"Indoor pollution may be as bad or even worse than the outdoor pollution if the house is ill-ventilated. Additional pollutants are Carbon Monoxide, Carbon Dioxide, Hydrogen Sulfide, formaldehyde and carbon-based total volatile organic compounds,” he says.

He suggested that if efforts are made by everybody to reduce the indoor pollution there are chances that outdoor pollution will also improve.

Using gadgets such as hepa-filter based air conditioners, exhaust fans, and air purifiers can tackle PM 10, he suggests

On the other hand Dr Sharma advises people to inhale steam for relief from respiratory diseases.

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Updated Date: Nov 03, 2018 16:48:38 IST