“People with COVID history might be more susceptible to lung issues due to Diwali pollution”: Experts

New Delhi, 27th October 2022: Diwali, a festival that holds a special place in every heart of the people of India. It is the most exciting festival of lights, celebrations, and enjoyment. It is commonly celebrated by socializing with family and friends and on this occasion, people light up lamps or candles to represent the success of light over darkness. However, burning firecrackers as a part of the celebrations has become a matter of concern. The darkest side of Diwali is the harmful plunge in the air quality. This certainly makes the air very dangerous to breathe. The effect of increased air pollutants remains as it is even some days after Diwali causing several health problems.

According to Dr. Gajendra Singh, Public Health Expert, “In recent days, many countries worldwide have seen a steady surge in COVID cases and omicron sub-variants Cases of new COVID variants XBB and XBB.1 is spreading in several countries at a fast pace. India has also seen 80+ cases in states like Maharashtra, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, and West Bengal. Hence, immediately after the Diwali festival is over, health experts are concerned about awareness regarding precautionary methods especially with the rise in cases of XBB. It is important to understand how precautionary vaccination as necessary as previous doses is to avoid the risks of getting re-infected with the new variant”.

Dr. Gajendra Singh further added, “Diwali indicates the onset of winters, and it is the time when people aged beyond 50, people with different co-morbid health issues become more vulnerable and fall sick with breathing issues due to changing weather and increased air pollution. People with pre-existing health conditions like Asthma, Bronchitis, or COPD should take their all due COVID vaccine doses on priority. There should be no further delay in getting their booster shots because it has been proved by multiple clinical studies that all the booster doses available in India, Covishield, Covaxin, Cobervax, and Sputnik can significantly contribute to re-strengthening the vaccine efficacy and reduce the chances of hospitalization and other complex health conditions especially in people who suffer from some pre-existing respiratory disorders”.

Speaking about the Diwali pollution, Dr. Gurmeet Singh Chabbra, Director & HOD – Department of Respiratory and Sleep Medicine, Marengo QRG Hospital said, “The most noteworthy thing is that the smoke of burning crackers remains in the air for many days after Diwali. During this time, Diwali is a crucial time of the year when the air pollution rises to its peak, and we have witnessed aggravation of breathing issues in people during this time. People with a history of COVID should be more careful during Diwali because, COVID has been seen to have long-lasting, adverse effects on the lungs. Due to the maximum exposure, to different air pollutants such as high levels of carbon monoxide and fine particulate matter smaller than 2.5 microns in size, may result in symptoms like irritation in the throat, cough, and breathlessness during Diwali and even after some days post-Diwali. Therefore, it is vital for people with chronic lung diseases to get themselves vaccinated with booster shots so that they remain safe from getting re-infected with coronavirus as that can now become life-threatening for them.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on every individual across the globe but in India, specifically, patients with respiratory disorders had the most difficult time due to Diwali pollution. Furthermore, Diwali is being celebrated amid the coronavirus pandemic for the last three years. Looking back on the last year’s celebration, India had witnessed a huge spike in COVID-19 infections with new variants just immediately after the Diwali. Since, the festival always indulges gatherings, and therefore, increased number of cases have always been observed in the country post-festive celebrations. Despite most of the eligible adult population being at least vaccinated with the primary doses of COVID-19, we can never ignore the possibility of another wave anytime soon if we do not prioritize taking the required precautions. The vaccine is a weapon against community transmission of any virus, therefore there should be multiple booster doses to ensure we move towards the complete eradication of COVID-19.

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