Covid-19: Pollution to bring more symptomatic patients
new delhi: Rising pollution levels in Delhi are leading to increased complications for patients with comorbidities for COVID-19 and also affecting the recovery of COVID-19 patients, resulting in symptoms persisting longer than expected, say medical experts in Delhi.
"Pollution plays a big role in developing these comorbidities. Pollution will cause lung and heart disease. Once pollution starts increasing, those already suffering from respiratory illness, or having weak lungs will become more compromised. Due to the pollution, their lungs will start functioning less. We expect that the complexity and severity of the illness will rise and we will see many more symptomatic patients," Dr Shuchin Bajaj (Internal Medicine), Founder and Director of Ujala Cygnus group of hospitals said.
"This is already quite visible in the third wave that Delhi is now witnessing. The unfortunate part is that this plays out every year, but is only being highlighted due to the pandemic."
Dr Bobby Bhalotra, Vice-chairman of the Dept of Chest Medicine at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital points out that COVID has certain symptoms (like cough, fever, low oxygen) which are also seen in asthma patients during the change in season. "So the patient who has COVID gets confused and tries self- medicating for a couple of days and when the fever and other symptoms don't get sorted out, only then they reach the hospital or doctor, so there is a delay in diagnosis."
"Patients who suffer from complications arising due to COVID, such as lung fibrosis, and weak lungs, need a very nice atmosphere to undo the damage and to recover. You need good oxygen, healthy air, so their recovery will be totally hampered if they get exposed to polluted air", he explained.
"We are seeing many more cases of long covid now that the winter is setting in than earlier, especially the number of ISTs (inappropriate sinus tachycardia). So in this the patient becomes well, he tests negative, his reports are fine, but he still has a severe acceleration of the heart rate, even with very minor effort. For example, if he stands up just to go to the toilet, his heart rate goes upto 120-130 suddenly. So then the person is severely symptomatic and cannot get back to work for a very long time. So this year due to the pollution, we're seeing much more long term breathlessness, long term pulmonary fibrosis (where your lungs get scarred permanently and do not recover at all from COVID-induced pneumonia). This is permanent scarring of the lungs and the patient will be breathless for almost his entire life and will need oxygen support for months altogether. Even cases of cognitive dysfunction have increased." Dr Bajaj said.
When a person has COVID, their recovery becomes that much more difficult because of pollution and bad weather. Lungs don't get proper oxygen and they get exposed to irritants like smoke and dust. "What we guide patients who already have poor or bad lung capacity is to take their preventive medicines. Preventer medicines prevent asthma attacks and COPD and other medicine heals when the attack happens," Dr Bhalotra added.
Dr Piyush Goel, Pulmonology & Critical Care, Columbia Asia Hospital warned that particulate matter in polluted and hazy air can aid the Coronavirus to be airborne and travel for longer times and longer distances.