It's all in the air: More Mumbaikars sick, flip-flop temps make it worse

Mumbai: For the last two weeks, the city has been witnessing fluctuating air quality and temperatures, with the result that there has been a spike in cases of respiratory and viral infections. The number of patients visiting private and civic-run outpatient departments with such complaints have doubled this year as compared to the same period last year, when 25-30 per cent such cases were treated.

“There has been no change in the city temperatures for the last two weeks and in this period, the air quality index too has ranged from moderate to poor, which is causing problems,” said a weather expert.

General physicians said the immediate effects are cough, throat infection and pneumonia; in the long term, the results could be disastrous and one could even develop lung cancer.

“Patients have started coming to outpatient department (OPD) with complaints of breathlessness, coughing, sneezing, tightness in the chest, allergy and asthma complications. On a daily basis, more than 30-40 patients are being treated for respiratory ailments,” said a senior doctor from private hospital.

“Excessive air pollution is associated with respiratory diseases like bronchitis and asthma. In this weather, cases of bronchitis have increased by 30 per cent at civic hospitals, primarily due to temperature fluctuation,” said Dr Ramesh Bharmal, dean of the BYL Nair Hospital and medical director of all civic hospitals.

The most common ailments being reported are cold, cough and viral fever. Doctors are worried about the likely increase in the number of respiratory diseases due to the unusual weather. The weather bureau has recently clarified, winter is yet to set in and the dryness in the air is due to winds. Going out early in the mornings are contra-indicated, as toxic levels are very high at dawn.

“The phenomenon of ‘temperature Inversion’ intensifies air pollution. Burning coal, kerosene, wood and garbage, along with vehicular exhaust fumes gives rise to suspended particulate matter, which are responsible for pollutants getting dispersed in the air,” said a doctor.

Meanwhile, the maximum temperature recorded at Colaba and Santacruz observatories was between 32-34 degrees Celsius, with a slight dip in minimum temperature, which was between 21-23 degrees Celsius. The relative humidity level remained high, at 90 per cent.

The increase in allergens along with smog and pollutants can predispose children to viral and bacterial infections, causing breathing difficulties. “An alarming increase in air pollution attacks the respiratory system. Moreover, higher levels of carbon monoxide directly hit the cardiovascular system and the entire respiratory tract, particularly among children,” said a doctor.

Dr Om Shrivastav, infectious diseases expert, said, “If patients show any symptoms of viral fever or respiratory problems, they should immediately seek treatment, instead of resorting to self-medication.”

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