Diwali brings a threefold rise in asthma, upper respiratory cases

Mumbaikars forced to leave city because of unbearable noise and air pollution

fireworksShrishti Desai, 29, a chartered accountant and Andheri resident, is off to North-East to spend her Diwali holidays. While most of us prefer being at home and celebrate the festival of lights, Desai, who suffers from asthma, is forced to stay away from the city to avoid the firecracker pollution.

City-based chest physicians confirmed that like Desai there are many Mumbaikars who are forced to leave the city during the festive season. They opt for a cleaner and quieter place to avoid the smoke and noise pollution.

“Last year, due to the firecracker pollution, I had a tough time and was even hospitalised. This year, I do not want to take any risk. I will also get to spend some quality time with my family,” said Desai.

In Mumbai, there are over a million suffering from various stages of asthma. According to doctors every year during Diwali, the city sees a threefold rise in asthma and other upper respiratory cases.

Dr Jalil Parker, chest physician at Lilavati Hospital, Mumbai, said, “I advise my patients with asthma problem to go on a vacation during Diwali to avoid the smoke created in the city.”

Generally, it is the youngsters, adolescents and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease patients who get affected the most.

“The smoke combined with the chemicals in the atmosphere due to excessive burning of firecrackers is the leading trigger for rise in asthma attacks during Diwali,” said Dr Parker.

Firecrackers are said to contain 75% potassium nitrate, 15% carbon and 10% sulphur. Once burnt, these firecrackers tend to release harmful gases such as sulphur dioxide, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, manganese and even cadmium, which irritates the delicate airways of lungs and worsen the condition of people with pulmonary diseases.

“Firecrackers are one of the provoking factors for childhood bronchial asthma, particularly in children between 6 and 12 years,” said Dr Mukesh Sanklecha, paediatrician, Bombay Hospital.

He said it has now been established that 26% of people without any prior history of respiratory ailments develop symptoms of coughing, wheezing and breathlessness, especially during Diwali.

“We are seeing a rising number of children getting asthma in Mumbai. There needs to be awareness among parents when they are buying the fire crackers for their children,” said Sanklecha.

The experts say that the asthma patients, who can’t afford to leave the city, should be prepared with inhalers.