Firecrackers on Diwali a nightmare for patients of respiratory diseases

On Tuesday morning, a day after Diwali, Delhi witnessed ‘very poor’ air quality, with the AQI standing at 326

Firecrackers on Diwali a nightmare for patients of respiratory diseases

Zenaira Bakhsh

As everyone outside her house was burning crackers and celebrating Diwali on Monday, Mansi Kumar was struggling to breathe as her throat started to burn up and her lungs felt a sudden shortage of air. 

Kumar, a 22-year-old resident of New Delhi, was last year diagnosed with allergic rhinitis, an allergic response caused due to pollens, or toxic chemicals released by crackers causing a burning sensation in the throat, watery eyes, and breathlessness. 

While she had been facing trouble breathing before that as well and every year around Diwali, her problems worsen as she is unable to breathe even inside her house. 

“When the symptoms show up, breathlessness also increases. On Diwali, when firecrackers are being used, my symptoms show up and hence I have trouble breathing, my throat burns up and there’s basically a lot of breathlessness,” she said. 

The firecrackers, as per medical experts, are responsible for a host of respiratory problems, especially for those suffering from diseases such as asthma. While people could not celebrate Diwali in open spaces with others for the past two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this year, people indulged in intense celebrations that in turn took a toll on the Air Quality Index. 

On Tuesday, Delhi witnessed ‘very poor’ air quality, with the AQI standing at 326 as of 8 AM. Areas in Delhi such as Narela, Delhi University, Anand Vihar, India Gate, and Dwarka reported very poor air quality. Neighboring cities of Ghaziabad, Noida, Greater Noida, Gurugram, and Faridabad had an AQI of 285, 320, 294, 315, and 310 respectively. 

At some monitoring stations on Diwali night, the PM 2.5 level reached a figure that was as much as 15 times and PM 10 around 10 times the 24-hour standard, according to data from the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC).

Even though the Delhi government led by the Aam Aadmi Party had imposed a ban on the production, sale, and use of all types of firecrackers till 1 January 2023, Delhi’s sky was lit up with colorful crackers on Diwali, leaving behind toxic residues leading to health problems in patients with respiratory problems.  

“I keep my medicines handy, just in case I feel the need but there should be a complete ban on firecrackers during Diwali,” said Kumar. “The carelessness of people infuriates me.”

Talat Khan, a 33-year-old resident of Old Delhi’s Chandni Chowk, had to get admitted to a hospital last year after she had an asthma attack on Diwali. “I was prescribed nebulisation with oxygen and was allowed to go only after my condition got a little better,” she said. 

Khan said that the roads from her home to the hospital were filled with smoke and the visibility was low. “I dread Diwali now,” she said. 

Dr Rajesh Chawla, a senior consultant in respiratory and critical care at Apollo Hospital, said that due to the burning of firecrackers, there is always an increase in the number of patients with respiratory problems and the symptoms take really long to resolve. 

“Crackers have an impact on the air quality and since the winter is beginning, the air doesn’t move much so there is a higher concentration of toxicity in the air. So people with respiratory problems may become worse. They start showing acute symptoms,” he said. 

In the last two years, Chawla said that he has seen patients with extreme cough and breathlessness around this time of the year. While the doctors initially treat it as a normal viral infection, the cough takes at least two or three weeks to go away completely.

“Any person with respiratory illness is at great risk during Diwali when the pollution level goes up abruptly,” he said. 

During this time, Chawla suggests, people should take steam inhalation, wear a mask, try avoiding traffic and going out unnecessarily, wash their faces and rinse their mouths frequently. “All these things will go a long way. There should be a complete ban on firecrackers because it really does make a difference,” he said. 

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