In India, nearly one in three people suffer from an allergy, but are unaware of the problem, says a WHO report. Which is why, it becomes important to understand allergies, their symptoms and causes as they impact the quality of one’s life. But one of the main reasons for respiratory allergies is rising pollution levels which causes the release of allergens in the air.
India has one of the highest concentration of air pollution with nearly 77 per cent of the population being exposed to PM 2.5 exceeding the National Air Quality Standards set by WHO, says a report published on thelancet.com titled: ‘The burden of allergic diseases in the Indian subcontinent’.
Air pollution caused by biomass, fossil fuels, and vehicular exhausts are the main reasons for outdoor pollution. However, in the current times when the whole country is in semi-lockdown mode and confined at home, indoor pollution is also increasing exponentially, and contributing majorly to respiratory allergies, says Dr Samir Bhargava, President of Association of Otolaryngologists of India (AOI).
While we understand the sources of outdoor pollution, we also need to keep in mind the right management approach to ensure allergies don’t disrupt our indoors. Here are some causes that commonly lead to respiratory allergies.
Indoor pollution acts as the silent killer
Indoor air pollution is the degradation of indoor air quality by harmful chemicals and other materials that can be up to 10 times worse than outdoor air pollution. It is more concentrated because contained areas enable potential pollutants to build up more than open spaces do. Indoor air pollution can be caused by burning solid fuel sources – such as firewood, crop waste, and dung – for cooking and heating. The burning of such fuels results in air pollution that leads to respiratory diseases.
* Allergies do share common symptoms with COVID-19, common cold, flu or vector-borne diseases. Hence, understanding of allergies and its symptoms will go a long way in treating and managing them.
* Pollutants can cause a wide range of short-term and long-term health problems, exposure to high concentrations of indoor air pollution can cause eye irritation, headaches, nose and throat irritation, fatigue, and dizziness.
* Children, pregnant women and senior citizens (since they have a weaker immune system) are even more susceptible to pollution, be it indoor or outdoor. The impact has far-reaching effects on them and hence avoiding exposure is crucial.
* The risk of poor perinatal outcomes, viz., low birth weight and perinatal death increases from exposure.
* Solid fuel use has also been associated with nonfatal pneumonia and other respiratory problems.
* Even prevalence of active tuberculosis is attributable to cooking smoke.
* In non-smoker women, exposure to biomass fuel was associated with a higher risk of developing lung cancer.
Simple ways to keep indoor pollution at bay
Since staying indoors is the new normal, it is crucial that we maintain hygiene and keep pollution at bay.
* Make sure you have your windows open for some time in the day making room for air circulation and cross-ventilation.
* Furnishings and upholstery must be cleaned and washed regularly.
* Usage of a vacuum cleaner can help remove dust from carpets, rugs and mats.
* Smoking indoors is not a good option as it releases pollutants in the air inside your home.
* Keep moisture and dampness away as they give rise to moulds and fungus.
* For animal lovers, keep your pets away from your bedroom and groom them regularly to maintain hygiene levels. Don’t make your house a breeding ground for these insects as they also cause indoor pollution.
* Opt for indoor plants that curb indoor pollution. Staying safe indoors also implies keeping the air clean and ingesting pure and pollution-free air.
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