Anupam Gupta, a software engineer, had just reached his home in Ghaziabad when he coughed and felt a little breathless. He didn’t think much of it and got busy with his kids. But in 30 minutes flat he coughed again and this time, it was more severe than before. By midnight, he was gasping for breath. By the time his wife took him to hospital, he choked and breathed his last. “Doctors at Pushpanjali Hospital told me that he had had an asthma attack, aggravated by the pollens from the cotton tree in our compound. I felt devastated. He was not asthmatic. Nevertheless, the first attack took his life,” she says.
Yes, this is what asthma does, if not taken care of. While May 5 is observed as Asthma Day the world over, there is little awareness about this chronic disease among the masses. Not many are aware of the triggers of this disease or how to manage it. Believe me, each one of us is sitting duck so far as asthma is concerned, courtesy the rising environmental pollution. Over the last one decade, there has been a steep rise in the number of asthma cases in India, especially among children. India now accounts for nearly 10 % of the total 300 million people who suffer from asthma the world over.
Asthma is a chronic respiratory disorder caused due to inflammation of the airways in lungs. Breathlessness, tightness in the chest, cough, wheezing and dryness of throat are some of the symptoms of this disorder. The worrying point is there are no fixed reasons for this. Anything could trigger an asthma attack… smog, stress, bad diet and allergy. Some seasons like the current are specially bad for asthma patients as there are lots of pollen grains in the atmosphere and many people are allergic to these. The rising levels of particulate matter in the atmosphere due to environmental pollution are also potent asthma agents.
“We are getting new asthma patients on a regular basis. More worrisome is the rising incidence of asthma cases among children. Increasing air pollution is surely the reason behind this,” says Dr Ramalingam, consultant at Max Balaji Hospital in Delhi.
Recently, Curofy, India’s largest community of doctors, conducted a poll on this issue. Significantly, over 82 % of respondents said that increased asthma incidence in children was directly related to rising environmental pollution. Smoking and genetic predilection were the other listed reasons. “More and more people who have never got asthma earlier are coming to us with its symptoms. This can only be attributed to air pollution. People who are exposed to vehicular and dust on daily basis are more prone to getting affected,” says Dr Ujjwal Parikh, consultant, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Delhi.
“Younger people getting asthma is a matter of great concern,” says Nipun Goyal, co-founder at Curofy. “There is a dire need to control environmental pollution to save the younger generation from asthma,” he adds.
ENT specialists say while asthma is more common among young boys as compared to girls, the severity of asthma attack is seen to be far greater in women than in men. This is basically due to the hormonal changes that a woman’s body experiences during menstrual cycle, pregnancy and menopause. What’s more alarming is that asthma can even interfere in a woman’s sexual health. “Women with asthma may take more time to get pregnant and have a lower pregnancy rate than those without it,” informs Dr Raka Guleria, gynaecologist and obstetrician.
How to manage asthma
Avoid venturing out during peak hours as environmental pollution is greater during this time.
While in car, put the air-conditioner on re-circulate mode so that outside air doesn’t come in.
Consume a diet rich in fruits and vegetables
Avoid consumption of saturated fats as these reduce the efficacy of asthma drugs.
Visit the hills, at least, twice a year to replenish lungs.
Sit in sunlight for at least 15-20 minutes a day as its boosts the immune system.
Mix one teaspoon of honey into a glass of hot water and drink it slowly about three times a day.
Swallow one teaspoon of honey with half a teaspoon of cinnamon powder before going to sleep. This helps remove phlegm from the throat.
Consume onions as these have anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce constriction of the airways. Also, the sulfur content in onions helps decrease inflammation in the lungs.
Indulge is some form of cardio exercises, walking, running or anything you feel good about.