Poor air quality drives 50% rise in lung, chest problems in Delhi-NCR

There has been a 50% surge in asthma, COPD, and chest problem cases in Delhi, with the AQI at 256 in the "poor" range

File photo of skyscrapers engulfed in dense smog amid rising air pollution in Noida in November 2022 (photo: Getty Images)
File photo of skyscrapers engulfed in dense smog amid rising air pollution in Noida in November 2022 (photo: Getty Images)


Amid deteriorating air quality levels, there has been a 50 per cent increase in cases of asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and other chest problems in Delhi and surroundings, city doctors said on Thursday.

The overall air quality in Delhi on Thursday morning continued to be in the "poor" category, with the air quality index (AQI) at 256, as per SAFAR-India.

According to the daily bulletin of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), the national capital's AQI, as of 4.00 pm on 25 October, was 243. Neighbouring Noida and Ghaziabad were also in the "poor" category, with AQIs of 212 and 203, respectively. Gurgaon, however, fared better with an AQI of 190, falling in the "moderate" category.

"Amidst the rising levels of pollution in Delhi-NCR, we are witnessing a notable increase in patients with COPD and chest problems coming to us in our OPD these days. We are seeing roughly 30 to 35 patients each day in our OPD, from 7-10 patients a day earlier, marking almost a 50 per cent increase," Dr Kuldeep Kumar Grover, head of critical care and pulmonology at Gurgaon's CK Birla Hospital, told IANS.

Dr Vivek Nangia, principal director & head of pulmonology at Max Hospital, Saket, added that he is also seeing a "dramatic increase" in the number of patients visiting the OPD and emergency room.

"The majority of patients that we treat nowadays present with cough, cold, sore throat, feeling of a foreign body in the throat, watering eyes, tightness in the chest, and shortness of breath. And in the majority of cases, we must administer medications such as nasal decongestants and anti-allergy medications," he said.

While Delhi's air quality struggles every year owing to stubble burning in its neighbouring states, there has been a notable decrease in these incidents, with only 1,794 farm fires in Haryana and 714 in Punjab recorded until 23 October. In addition, rising temperatures in Delhi and decrease in the wind speed may result in an increase in pollution, Delhi environment minister Gopal Rai said this week. “The particulate matter is staying near the ground,” he added.

Dr Grover said patients who already had respiratory issues are now being diagnosed with pneumonia and being hospitalised. People are also being "affected with upper respiratory issues and if not treated well in time they can also get affected with lower respiratory issues", he said.

Dr Arun Chowdary Kotaru, consultant, respiratory & sleep medicine at Artemis Hospital in Gurgaon, told IANS the effect of air pollution is profound oin the lungs and heart. "We are also seeing one member of every family suffering from cough, sore throat and fever. Supportive therapy and a good diet with physical activity is a must for all patients," he said.

The experts also advised quitting smoking and staying away from secondhand smoke, avoiding dust and pollution as much as possible. They also recommended that those above 60 or below 15 take flu and pneumonia vaccines.

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