Mumbai is grappling with a bout of respiratory ailments as the air quality of India's financial hub has been poor for about three months. 

The city has seen a spike in cases of cold, headache, throat infection, persistent dry cough and breathing difficulties. These, according to doctors, could have possible long-lasting impact on human health.

"The visits to the outpatient department for breathing difficulty issues and dry cough have doubled in the past couple of weeks," Dr Salil Bendre, head of pulmonology and chest medicine at Nanavati Max Super Specialty Hospital, told BQ Prime. "We are also seeing around 5% hospitalisations among asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD patients as they've been facing increased issues."

A haze of dust and smoke—more identified with India's northern cities during the winter—now hangs over Mumbai as construction and multiple infrastructure projects have added to industrial pollution. The changed wind patterns could also have possibly aided the drop in air quality by affecting the "natural cleansing mechanism of the city", Dr Gufran Beig, founder project director, SAFAR, the government's research based initiative on health advisories, wrote in the Indian Express. Whatever the cause, doctors are worried.

Individuals complaining about having coughs, sore throats, and headaches have risen in the last month, according to Dr Prashant Chhajed, senior consultant in pulmonology and chest medicine at Nanavati Max. The patients are taking longer to recover, the doctor said, as the cause is multifactorial. "There has been an increase in pollution, seasonal variation, or climate change, and an increase in viral respiratory tract infections."

Almost 25-30% patients in the ICU currently have been hospitalised due to acute respiratory ailments, Dr Kedar Toraskar, critical care and pulmonology consultant from Wockhardt Hospital in South Mumbai, told BQ Prime. "Especially, patients with COPD, asthma, and interstitial lung diseases are presenting with respiratory failure and are requiring ICU care in the form of non-invasive or invasive ventilation," he said.

"Post the Omicron wave, and in the last three months, Covid cases are almost negligible. However, there has been a surge in influenza A (H3N2) cases, followed by swine flu (H1N1), respiratory syncytial virus, and adenovirus infections, apart from community-acquired bacterial pneumonia. Also, dry cough that usually lasted for two to three days in the winter is now lasting for over a month, which is attributed to postviral bronchiolitis," Dr Toraskar said.

"People from extreme age groups—pediatric or children and the elderly which is 65 plus age group—are suffering more and are prone to complications ."

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