Bad air quality can affect survivors of severe Covid: Experts

New Delhi: As air quality in the national capital turned “very poor” ahead of Diwali, it can be of concern, particularly to people who have survived severe Covid, experts warned on Monday.

The air quality of Delhi-NCR on Monday morning plunged to the “very poor” category after the air quality index (AQI) breached the grim mark of 302, according to System of Air Quality And Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR).

The bad skies in Delhi are also partly caused by stubble burning in nearby states like Haryana and Punjab. SAFAR data showed that the share of crop residue burning emissions in PM2.5 is about 8 per cent.

During October and November, stubble burning usually contributes between 20 per cent to 70 per cent of Delhi’s air pollution. Last year, a report from the Environment Ministry showed that the average contribution of stubble burning to Delhi’s air pollution increased from 10 per cent in 2019 to over 15 per cent in 2020.

Various studies have shown that an increase of only one microgram per cubic metre in PM 2.5 — dangerous tiny pollutants in the air — is associated with an 8 per cent increase in the Covid-19 severity and death rate.

“People who survived severe Covid-19 suffered compromised lung function and many of them continue to have breathlessness and brochure hyperactivity. So any increase in pollution will have a deleterious effect on their respiratory status and their lung condition can deteriorate over the years,” Dr Rajesh Chawla, Senior Consultant Pulmonology and Critical Care, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi, told IANS.

“Virus particles piggyback on particulate matter in the air, and enter the lungs. Last year, Delhi had witnessed a surge in Covid-19 cases during winters in the months of November and December. Although a sizable population has taken vaccination against the infectious disease, we still cannot afford to let our guard down during this very vulnerable and challenging period,” added Dr Nikhil Bante, Consultant, PulmonologyFortis Hospital, Vasant Kunj.

In every winter season, Delhi becomes one of the worst hit cities in the world with air pollution. In addition to the harmful gases and particulate matter, pollen grains of different plant species also spread in the air during early winter and spring affecting people suffering from respiratory diseases.

“To reduce the detrimental effects of air pollution, people especially those with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) or asthma should be aware of the air quality and take extra measures such as reducing the time outdoors and wearing masks when necessary,” Bante told IANS.

Children with asthma, allergies and heart diseases are also vulnerable to the harmful effects of air pollution, Dr Harshal R Salve, Associate Professor at Centre for Community Medicine, AIIMS New Delhi, told IANS.

According to Dr Dhiren Gupta, a senior paediatric pulmonologist at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, children can get affected by both indoor as well as outdoor pollution. To reduce the impact of air pollutants, he suggested restricting outdoor activities, wearing N-95 masks, and avoiding burning of woods, dry brooming and strong fragrances inside the house, and proper ventilation.

Further, poor air quality can also affect healthy adults. Pollution in any form can affect any person and naturally it has been affecting the health of people who have been living in and around the areas of high pollution.

As a precaution, people should avoid moving out, unless necessary; be sensible in self contribution towards air pollution and shall continue wearing masks as an essential respiratory hygiene. Air purifiers that can improve the air quality efficiently can be used indoors, the experts suggested.

Patients should also not change their daily medications on their own and must consult their physicians at the earliest if they experience any worsening of their symptoms, they added.


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