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By now, we’re only too used to the health hazard that is Delhi. An anti-pollution air mask has become second skin on our faces and the hoarseness in our throats has become the sound our ears have grown accustomed to. The Indian Medical Association (IMA) has stated that Delhi is in a state of “public health emergency”. Air quality index is very severe with high particulate matter at a 2.5 level in many places. A report in the Lancet medical journal last month said pollution had claimed as many as 2.5 million lives in India in 2015, the highest in the world. And while we’ve been conveniently asked not to step out of our homes, not everyone can afford an air purifier to be at their beck and call, at all times. Not everyone can comfortably confine themselves to their homes at all times. At some point, we’re going to have to get back to living our lives, as we do.
As listed out by Dr Vikas Maurya, who is the Senior Consultant & Head of Department, Respiratory Medicine & Interventional Pulmonology, Department of Pulmonology & Sleep Disorders, Fortis Hospital, New Delhi, these are some of the ways the air pollution can affect you.
“The smog in Delhi right now can lead to the onset of allergies or aggravate already existing allergies and decrease in Lung Immunity. It might even be instrumental in causing premature birth, can cause decrease in the lung function for all age groups and could aggravate pre-existing lung and cardiac functions along with uncontrollable or chronic coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath.”
Dr. Harleen Uppal, M.D Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, along with Dr. Sumiran, MD Sports Medicine, both at AktivHealth, further add that the air could cause irritation of respiratory passage (throat and nose), as well as redness, burning and watering of eyes.
“It may also cause episodes of flare up among those suffering from asthma, bronchitis and other lung related disorders. Headache is an associated feature. In general air pollution increases risk of cardiovascular diseases,” they inform us.
So, how do we protect ourselves, on a larger scale, from the contaminated atmosphere we’re breathing in?
We asked a few people about how they’re adjusting to the issue.
I used to enjoy breathing in the fresh air while jogging in my neighbourhood park, but not any more. With a pollution emergency being declared in the city and an upcoming half marathon cancelled, I have reserved my workouts only to my gym and I make sure I don’t spend more time outdoors than absolutely required.
“Endurance exercises should be decreased during this time. Aerobic exercises increase the inhalation of particulate matter to deeper lung tissue, it also bypass the nose due to excessive mouth breathing,” says Dr. Uppal.
“It is advised to runners to avoid the roads and hit the indoor gym/aerobic labs/indoor tracks for their practice. Absolutely avoid early mornings to mid day for any outdoor physical activities,” Dr Sumiran adds.
I read about how eating jaggery actually clears out your lungs of all the pollutants in the air right now. So in my house, all processed sugar is being kept aside and we are using gud in our tea and eating a large chunk everyday after dinner. It might lead to me putting on a little weight; but at least it will help do away with the pollutants in my body.
Additionally, consume fruits rich in Vitamin C, Magnesium and foods rich in Omega Fatty Acids. Have a lot of herbal ginger & tulsi tea, as well, says Dr Maurya.
With the pollution levels continuously rising, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to breathe, whether it’s inside our own homes or outside. But my mother recently showed me a study that said that there are a few indoor plants that work better than many air purifiers to help make the air better and more breathable. So why not? Plus, it’s more eco-friendly considering all the electricity we’ll be saving. A little effort does go a long way after all!
“We are practically breathing poison! With Air Quality Index going above 500 and even our indoors having twice as many pollutants, it harms us, our kids’ and elders’ lungs, permanently,” says Annu Grover, MD of Nurturing Green, which has launched a range of air purifying plants.
Dr Maurya reiterates this by suggesting the use of air purifying plants such as aloe vera, ivy and spider plant that can be placed in our homes and offices.
With everything that’s happening to the city, it’s time to take a few steps to fix our situation. Air purifiers for example, are a bit on the expensive side but definitely effective. Invest on an air purifier at work or at home, wherever you spend most of your time. There are different variations of it available online, to fit all budgets and needs.
“To ensure that indoor air pollution does not take place make sure there is a chimney in the kitchen and an exhaust in the bathroom,” adds Dr Vikas.
So, what are the measures you’re taking to stay healthy in the smog?
Image Sources: National Geographic & New Indian Express