Air Pollution and Respiratory Health

By Dr. Salil S. Bendre in Centre for Chest & Respiratory Diseases

Apr 24 , 2023 | 2 min read

Pollution has become a serious health concern in Mumbai, especially for those with respiratory ailments. In winter, we see a steady inflow of patients complaining of throat irritation, running noses, sneezing, and persistent coughing. Decongestants and anti-inflammatory medications cannot relieve the symptoms immediately since they are caused by pollutant exposure.

Numerous studies have proved the relationship between rising air pollution and respiratory issues. Not to mention, as air pollution levels rise, we observe a corresponding increase in respiratory problems such as asthma and bronchitis. This is particularly concerning given that air pollution is one of the leading causes of death worldwide.

Thus, it is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of respiratory problems, in order to seek medical assistance in time.

Impact of Air Pollution on Respiratory Health:

Air pollution has been linked to a number of respiratory issues, including asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema. Asthma is a condition that affects the lungs, causing wheezing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. Asthma rates have been on the rise in recent years, and air pollution has been a major contributing factor. A number of patients are being detected with Bronchitis—an infection of the bronchi—the airways that carry air to the lungs are also rising rapidly in the past few years. Though it can be caused by either viruses or bacteria, air pollution can worsen bronchitis symptoms.

We are also seeing a lot of cases of Emphysema—a chronic lung disease that causes shortness of breath and coughing. Emphysema is a result of damage to the air sacs in the lungs. Air pollution can speed up the development of emphysema.

Preventive Measures:

There are a number of things that people can do to reduce air pollution and prevent respiratory issues. One is to carpool or use public transportation when possible. This cuts down on the number of cars on the road, and consequently, the amount of pollution being emitted.

Another tip is to avoid idling your car. When you're stopped at a red light or in traffic, turn off your engine. This saves fuel and reduces emissions.

You can also help reduce air pollution by supporting businesses that are environmentally friendly. Look for companies that use renewable energy sources, recycled materials, and efficient production practices.

Expert Advice on Risk Mitigation:

Medical experts suggest a few different ways to mitigate the risk of respiratory diseases, especially for those who live in areas with high levels of air pollution. Individuals should avoid polluted areas and wear a mask while venturing out. Senior citizens should avoid morning walks in the season due to the heavy smog.

Regular steam inhalation, which humidifies the airway, can be effective. Individuals with allergies and asthma should keep their inhalers on themselves at all times.In addition, it is important to stay hydrated and to avoid irritants such as smoke and fumes. If you have asthma or another respiratory condition, make sure to follow your doctor's instructions and keep your medication handy in case of an attack.

By taking these precautions, you can help reduce your risk of developing a respiratory disease.