Looks like air pollution is getting the better of us. If we don’t fight back now, what are our chances of a healthy tomorrow?
Air pollution is harmful for health. Poor quality of air poses a great threat not just to people with a compromised immunity but also to those who are hail and hearty. Constant exposure to air pollution increases the risk of lung and heart diseases and may precipitate an acute, potentially life-threatening event, more so during winter. During the colder months of the year, polluted air tends to remain stagnant for a longer period of time and does not move out from the zone as quickly as it does in summer.
Air pollution also affects the nose, mouth, throat, skin, lungs, blood and even the heart and brain, explains, Dr J. Anish Anand, consultant, internal medicine, Apollo Hospitals.
What are the pollutants in the air that affect the human body?
The pollutants that cause air pollution are nitric oxide and sulphur dioxide from vehicle fuels and particulate matter (sulfate, nitrates, ammonia, sodium chloride, black carbon, mineral dust and water. It consists of a complex mixture of solid and liquid particles of organic and inorganic substances suspended in the air and ozone) formed by the photochemical reaction of sunlight and pollutants such as nitrogen oxides from vehicle and industry emissions and volatile organic compounds emitted by vehicles, solvents and industry.
What are the common diseases caused these pollutants?
Common diseases are all types of allergies, colds, coughs, bronchitis, asthma attacks and even heart problems.
What are the effects of air pollution on early morning walkers, runners and also those who exercise in the open in winter?
Cold air does not get lifted easily, so the air pollution is very high early in the morning. Early morning runners are likely to experience irritation of the respiratory tract, increased coughing, breathlessness and wheezing.
Exposing yourself to such high levels of pollution on a regular basis can also predispose you to chronic respiratory ailments like bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD and other allergies including skin allergy.
Are air purifiers the need of the hour in cities where vehicular pollution is high?
Air purifiers will definitely help, especially for indoor pollution and for patients of asthma, allergies and other health issues, it is highly recommended.
It was recently seen that cricketers puked on the field due to the sever air pollution. Why did that happen? What were the irritants?
This could be because of particulate matter and other pollutants like nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide in the air causing irritation in the organs. Hence, the human body’s response to that feeling of discomfort was vomiting and nausea.
Are there any preventive measures that one can take before winter sets in?
Avoid exercising very early in the morning, avoid dust and smoke. Use masks where pollution is very high and finally, use air purifiers at home. The less fuel we burn, the better.
What are the long-term diseases which are caused due to air pollution?
Chronic exposure to particles contributes to the risk of developing cardiovascular and respiratory diseases as well as lung cancer. Ozone is a major factor in asthma morbidity and mortality, while nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide also can play a role in asthma, bronchial symptoms, lung inflammation and reduced lung function.
What are the treatment options for the common as well as long-term diseases?
Firstly, one should avoid the pollution that causes the problem; in case of increased severity, visit the doctor. Also simple home remedies like steam inhalation or throat gargling for colds and throat pain and using a nebuliser can also be helpful.
They affect the body in the following ways
Indoor exposure to pollutants from household combustion of solid fuels on open fires or traditional stoves increases the risk of acute lower respiratory infections among young children; indoor air pollution is also a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease
Ozone is a major factor in asthma morbidity and mortality, while nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide also can play a role in asthma, bronchial symptoms, lung inflammation and reduced lung function.
Sulphur dioxide can affect the respiratory system and the functioning of the lungs, and causes irritation of the eyes. Hospital admissions for cardiac diseases and mortality increase on days with higher levels of such pollution. When sulphur dioxide combines with water, it forms sulfuric acid; this is the main component of acid rain which is also a cause of deforestation.
Here are some tips on how to protect your health