People walk amid mist during wee hours, in Mumbai on Saturday. | ANI Photo

There has been a surge in upper respiratory tract illnesses in Mumbai, particularly among children and the elderly, with the air quality index of the city being in the ‘very poor’ category for the second consecutive day. The poor air quality has led people to flock to outpatient departments of hospitals with complaints of running noses, breathlessness, throat infections and other ailments. Health officials have urged senior citizens to avoid going for morning walks because of the risk of exposure to toxic air. People who already suffer from lung problems should be more careful, the officials said.

The poor air quality can have adverse effects on health

Already people are suffering from illnesses related to the monsoon and from viral fever. The poor air quality will have a severe impact on their health. Daily there are 10 to 15 patients in the OPDs of civic hospitals complaining of respiratory illness and joint pains, said a doctor. The population of Mumbai is swelling and construction work goes on unabated, said a general physician at a private-run hospital. This is compounded by vehicular pollution, industrial pollution, and pollution from the use fossil fuel, as well as waste burning and deforestation and all this impairs lung function, he said.

Can cause future health ailments in children

This causes ailments such as allergic bronchitis, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, the doctor said. There is a surge in the number of patients with allergic bronchitis, asthma, and COPD. In children, pollution stunts lung growth and increases the risk of respiratory diseases later in life. Avoiding exposure to pollutants while travelling or exercising, as well as using a mask is helpful, said the doctor.

Air pollution affects the well-being of children, who inhale toxins and other particulate matter that can tremendously affect the growth of their organs, especially lungs, which leads to respiratory issues in the near future, according to Dr Nihar Parekh, a paediatrician. Air pollution can turn into an epidemic.

Wear masks

To combat this, parents should follow basic protocol and teach their children that it is a silent menace that can jeopardise their breathing capacity. Make children wear masks if they are going out, he said. In the last month, those with chronic breathing problems and allergies have been coming into the OPD more frequently. Exposure to high pollution levels worsens existing respiratory illnesses and contributes to new cases, said an official.


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