Does the skyline look hazy to you? Do you see the Mumbai smog? For most of the last few weeks, the air quality has remained in the ‘poor’ category in Mumbai. This has adversely affected the health of many people especially vulnerable populations like children and the elderly. According to the network of monitoring stations that make up the System of Air Quality Forecasting and Research (SAFAR), an AQI (Air Quality Index) of 0-49 is regarded as “good,” 50 to 99 as “satisfactory,” and 100 to 199 as “moderate.” AQI above 400 ‘severe’ and above 500 is considered ‘severe+’.

How Air pollution harms your health?

Exposure to toxic substances can have both short and long-term consequences. Chest pain, breathing difficulties, coughing, throat irritation, airway inflammation, lung tissue destruction, impaired lung function, asthma, and an increased risk of respiratory infections are just a few of the negative impacts of breathing in low quality air. Around 3 million premature deaths worldwide are attributed to air pollution, the most of which are caused by lung cancer, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and acute respiratory infections.

Particulate matter includes toxic substances including sulphur dioxide, carbon dioxide, and carbon monoxide. They cause swelling by irritating the bronchial passages. Breathing gets more difficult as the tubes get smaller. People with pre-existing respiratory health conditions have trouble breathing and the poor air quality makes matters worse for them. The poor air quality is also leading to chronic infections and allergies amongst school going children.

Chronic lower respiratory diseases — including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma deteriorate your quality of life and may also lead to fatalities in extreme cases. Further with increasing age, your lungs, just like your heart, joints, and other parts of your body, age with time. They can become less flexible and lose their strength, which can affect their breathing capability. You must adopt healthy lifestyle habits to maintain the health of your lungs, and help them work optimally.

Our health expert, Dr Tanu Singhal, Consultant Paediatrician and Infectious Diseases specialist at Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, Mumbai suggests that she has been seeing an increase in viral infections among both children and adults in the past two weeks. Exacerbation of conditions like asthma and allergies is the most common ailment she is attending to at this duration. People with a milder form of respiratory infections are at risk of developing severe forms of the infection due to poor air quality, she said. She also warned against self-medicating, except in allergy cases, for minor coughs and colds as taking antibiotics for viral infections does more harm in the long run without providing any immediate relief.

Health precautions

Here are some simple and helpful tips to protect you and your family from the poor AQI and air pollution:

  • Check the air quality
  • Avoid exercising outdoors when pollution levels are high
  • Try to stay indoors if possible
  • Wear a mask if stepping outdoors
  • Invest in an air purifier
  • Quit smoking
  • Don’t burn wood or trash

If you or a loved one are facing a breathing difficulty, chest discomfort or wheezing do not hesitate to seek care at our Department of Pulmonary Medicine. Our pulmonologists can help manage your symptoms with prompt diagnosis and care. Call 022 42696969 for appointments. Please visit the below website for more details:

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