Increase in respiratory illnesses: Amrita doctors

November 17, 2022 / FARIDABAD, DELHI-NCR: Doctors of Amrita Hospital have reported seeing a 30% spike in cases of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and other chronic respiratory illnesses in the last few weeks in Delhi-NCR due to the increasing air pollution and the changing weather. The smog enveloping Delhi and the onset of winters have led to not only newer cases but also the worsening and acute exacerbation of existing cases of COPD, a chronic inflammatory lung disease that blocks airflow from the lungs and makes it difficult to breathe.

Said Dr. Arjun Khanna, Head, Department of Pulmonary Medicine, Amrita Hospital, Faridabad: “Due to pollution, we are seeing a 30% rise in COPD patients at hour hospital in the month of October and November as compared to August. As soon as there is a change in weather towards winter and an increase in air pollution due to smog, there is a surge in viral infections. Cold temperatures, stronger winds, and drier air conditions in winter can make breathing much more difficult for everyone, but more so for patients with COPD. Increasing air pollution and colder air leads to acute worsening of symptoms.”

COPD is the most common chronic disorder in India, with the country having the largest number of cases in the world, according to the doctor. About six crore people in India are estimated to suffer from COPD. The initial symptoms of the disease are gradually progressive, such as shortness of breath and cough. Risk factors of COPD include smoking, exposure to chulha or biomass smoke, and a history of exposure to heavy industrial pollution or general pollution in a city. Elderly people are particularly affected.

Said Dr. Sourabh Pahuja, Consultant, Department of Pulmonary Medicine, Amrita Hospital, Faridabad: “COPD is a common but preventable disease. If you have any symptoms of COPD, you need to see a pulmonologist, who can recommend some lung exercises and appropriate medicines such as inhalers and oral medicines. These can easily manage the condition. However, it has been observed that people struggle with symptoms of COPD for months and years, before checking with the doctor and getting diagnosed.”

Talking about the precautions one should take regarding COPD, Dr. Arjun Khanna said: “Avoid smoking, wear an N-95 mask wherever possible, do not step out during peak pollution hours and use an air purifier at home if possible. It is also important to have a healthy well-balanced diet and exercise regularly. Do not forget to take your annual influenza vaccine in September every year to protect you from viral illnesses that begin from onset of winters.”

According to the World Health Organization, COPD caused 3.23 million deaths worldwide. Around 90% of these deaths are in people under 70 years of age and occur in low and middle-income countries.

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