After Diwali, time to brace up for respiratory problems as winter sets in

The winter is setting in. The mornings are quiet cold. There is fluctuation in the temperature. And all this is perfect weather for virus and bacteria to grow

Even though, the noise levels were comparatively lower this Diwali, it still left many Mumbaikars high and dry literally with doctors witnessing a high number of patients complaining of respiratory ailments due to poor air quality in the city.

During the Diwali week, Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) has recorded respirable suspended particulate matter (RSPM) levels as high as 380 which has left many gasping for breath. Doctors say fluctuating temperature and high RSPM levels have led to patients coming with symptoms like dry cough, running nose, low grade fever and breathlessness.

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“We are seeing these symptoms affecting people across the age group. The poor air quality aggravates health problems such as asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis and other respiratory problems as well as eye irritation and reduced resistance to colds and lung infections,” said Dr Pratit Samdhani, physician at Breach Candy Hospital.

Doctors are predicting rise in respiratory illnesses in coming days with winter setting in. Explaining why the drop in temperature and pollution aggravates respiratory disorder, health experts say that the drop in night temperature in the city in the month of December, January and February creates a blanket of cold air over the city which prevents pollutants from factory chimneys, vehicular emission and incineration of garbage from rising up and dispersing.

“Normally, with rainfall, dust settles down, it is not flying in the air and in summers the pollutants goes up in the air. But in winter, with the combination of dry, cool weather and the inversion process, pollutants tend to stay at face levels or higher,” Dr Jalil Parker, chest physician at Lilavati Hospital.

Children, senior citizens and people with co-morbid factors like diabetes, hypertension, on immune suppressants should be more careful during this period as they are more vulnerable to the infections.

“The winter is setting in. The mornings are quiet cold. There is fluctuation in the temperature. And all this is perfect weather for virus and bacteria to grow. Taking precaution is the only way to keep the upper respiratory tract problem at bay,” said Dr Jaising Phadtare, chest physician at Shushrusha Hospital.

What is Respirable Suspended Particulate Matter (RSPM)?

  • SPM is a mix of solid and liquid particles, including dust, sand, smoke, lead, nickel and arsenic. It lodges in lung tissues and causes respiratory problems aggravated asthma and acute respiratory symptoms including difficult or painful breathing, chronic bronchitis and decreased lung function.
  • Normal level of RSPM: 100 micrograms per cubic metre.
  • Inhaling RSPM over a prolonged period is associated with health problems like acute respiratory tract infections, aggravated asthma, lung infection and chronic bronchitis.
  • The main sources of RSPM are vehicular smoke, construction dust, road works among others.