Three-fold rise in number of patients with respiratory issues
NEW DELHI: The emergency wards of several Delhi hospitals are flooded with men and women gasping for breath, waiting to be treated for symptoms triggered by the choking blanket of smog, which descended on the city this week.
Doctors at the Vallabhbhai Patel Chest Institute said that the number of patients has more than tripled since pollution levels and smog spiked.
Initially, shopkeeper Manoj Khati had dismissed his heaving cough. But gradually, it grew worse. Now, he has been diagnosed with chronic bronchitis.
"For three days, I haven't stopped coughing, I feel as if I would die," says the 46-year-old, waiting to undergo further tests.
The levels of PM2.5 – the fine pollution particles linked to higher rates of chronic bronchitis, lung cancer and heart disease – regularly breached the 500 this week' even crossing 1,000 at one point.
PM2.5 levels between 301 and 500 are classified as 'hazardous', while anything over 500 is beyond the official index.
The World Health Organization's guidelines say that 25 is the maximum level of PM2.5 anyone can safely be exposed to over a 24-hour period.
Dr Mansi Verma said the institute's emergency ward has seen a huge spurt in patients suffering from respiratory problems.
They are being treated with steam inhalation or with nebuliser machines, which provide immediate relief by administering drugs directly to the airways.
"Beginning this week, we are seeing between 250-300 patients, more than three times the usual. Most of them suffer from intense coughing and inflammation of the respiratory tract," Verma said.
Despite the rise in emergency cases Arvind Kumar, a respiratory diseases specialist at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, said many of the worst health effects would not be seen for years to come.
"Pollution kills you slowly. Whatever toxins levels we are exposed to today, suppose it continued for 10 days, it would shorten the life of each one of us by several days or several weeks.
"But that effect will be noticed many, many years later," Verma said.
Delhi is now the world's most polluted capital, according to a World Health Organization survey conducted in 2014, with levels regularly exceeding those in Beijing.