A sore throat, itchy eyes and a smoker’s cough — the smog has residents of Delhi gasping for every breath. Since Diwali, the out patient department (OPD) at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital — one of the busiest in the capital — has seen a 100 per cent rise in the number of patients with respiratory disorders. “In 85 per cent cases, based on their X-ray reports, patients did not show symptoms of chronic respiratory ailments. Most have no history of respiratory diseases. As these otherwise healthy people are inhaling highly polluted air, irritants are causing inflammation and displaying symptoms such as sore throat, watery eyes and dry cough,” Dr Arup Basu, senior consultant, Department of Chest Medicine at the hospital, said.
As air quality in the national capital remained “severe” for the third day in a row, doctors manning OPDs at top hospitals across the city said more and more people have been coming in with chronic cough, sore throat and itchy eyes — a reaction to the rise in pollution levels.
Elaborating that at least 80 per cent of at least 25 cases he handles on a daily basis are related to the deteriorating weather condition, Dr Basu said, “Those who have a history of respiratory diseases such as asthma and chronic bronchitis — they are leaning towards getting hospitalised. Some of them required an increased dosage of medicines they take regularly to treat the symptoms. However, there has been a 100 per cent spike in the number of people who have no history of such ailments. Moreover, we have also seen many patients complaining of lethargy and fatigue. This entire thing has picked up in the last one week.”
Explaining the reason, he said, “When a person inhales toxic air, PM (particulate matter) 2.5 affects their brain and cardiovascular system. It is a gradual numbing of the system. Our eyes are sensitive to these pollutants and dust, which causes irritation and burning.”
Dr Tarun Sahni, who specialises in Internal and Hyperbaric Medicine at Indraprastha Apollo Hospital said since October 19, his OPD has seen an approximate increase of 35 per cent in the number of cases related to respiratory ailments. He pointed out that smoker’s cough — a chronic cough that presents itself only in those who smoke — has been noticed among non-smokers as well over the past week. “A 16-year-old student had come to me with chronic cough. He is not a smoker. When we carried out a lung function test on him, we found that the chronic cough was due to the rise in pollution levels. This is how it is manifesting in most patients,” Dr Sahni said.
“The two main pollutants – PM 2.5 and PM 10 — are very small. These particles go deep into the lungs and settle there. As a result, what happens to smokers is happening with almost everyone. As people are exposed to this air for a prolonged time period, foreign bodies enter the lungs and cause irritation. They damage the lungs and compromise immunity. People who are vulnerable — children and the elderly — are worst affected. But even those with strong immunity will get affected if the intake of this air is for a prolonged period,” he added.