With Diwali a couple of days away, many are busy preparing for the celebrations. However, Ruhi (name changed), a 20-year-old engineering student and chronic asthma patient, is preparing to get away to some far off place.
“Ruhi turned all red, had bouts of breathlessness along with wet wheezing, like she was drowning,” recalls her mother Shalini (name changed).
“The smoke from colourful crackers and increased air pollution during Diwali almost choked Ruhi’s airways last year. It got so bad that she had to be hospitalised,” Shalini further says.
According to experts, the number of patients suffering from asthma and other respiratory disorders like COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) and allergic rhinitis shows a sharp upward trend during Diwali. In India, an estimated 15-20 million people suffer from asthma, of which 10-15% are children in the age group of 5-11 years.
As per a study conducted to ascertain the impact of fireworks on respiratory health during Diwali, it was observed that bursting crackers aggravates the condition among people with asthma. The study found that it is harmful for even people with no prior respiratory ailments. It was observed that 31.2% complained of coughing, wheezing and breathlessness during smoke emission due to crackers.
“I attend more than 20-25 patients with asthma who experience acute exaggeration around Diwali as compared to 10-15 patients on regular days. Many come complaining of very bad cough and asthma flare-ups owing to the pollution caused by toxic firecrackers,” says Dr Sandeep Salvi, Director, Chest Research Foundation, Pune.
“Apart from staying away from smoke, precautions like carrying inhalers can help avoid the risk of asthma attacks. The smog can be very toxic and even dangerous for people with asthma,” Salvi adds.
Most asthma patients continue to suffer from severe exacerbations despite being on medication and bear the brunt of side effects of the drugs. To beat the problem, more effective alternatives, such as inhalation therapy, are being employed as the mainstay of asthma treatment.
Salvi pointed out that misinformation about corticosteroid medications lead people to believe it is the same steroid athletes use to enhance their performance. Corticosteroids are a copy of steroids naturally produced by our body and are safe, he adds.
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