Hospitals in Delhi are overflowing with people suffering from coughs, stuffy noses, shortness of breath and even asthma attacks as eye-stinging smog blankets Delhi-NCR. Hospitals are also seeing patients with no history of respiratory conditions come in for treatment. With Delhi’s air quality remaining ‘severe’, doctors have advised a return to wearing masks to guard against pollution.
At Holy Family Hospital in Okhla, there has been a 30% increase in the number of such patients coming to outpatient departments, said Dr Sumit Ray, head of the critical care department.
Last year, the hospital began writing “pollution-related” in the diagnosis in what was likely a first for a medical facility here.
“There were two ICU (intensive care unit) patients for whom we wrote this diagnosis. To write this diagnosis, you need to rule out several likely factors that could have triggered the disease. For patients who are currently admitted, we will have need another few days to get to that diagnosis,” Ray said.
Shedding light on the problems faced by patients, Dr Ashish Kumar Prakash, Consultant (Respiratory and Sleep Medicine) at Medanta in Gurugram, said they were dealing with patients complaining of cough, nasal congestion and breathing difficulties since Diwali.
“Currently I have 25-30 patients in my OPD with such conditions and the whole unit/ward has about 50-75 cases in total. Patients with respiratory diseases such as COPD, asthma and others report acute exacerbations, an increase in symptoms such as cough, dyspnea and acute nasal problems,” he said.
“As the weather turns cold and breezy, cold, dry air and sudden weather changes can irritate the airways, causing more mucus to be produced and leading to exacerbations if patients don’t take their medications properly. drugs,” he said.
Dr Suresh Singh Naruka, Senior Consultant (ENT) at Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, Delhi, said there had been a “significant increase” in the number of patients visiting him in his OPD after Diwali due to increased pollution levels.
When the respiratory system is affected, it can lead to a persistent cough, said Dr. Ravi Shekhar Jha, Director (Pneumology) at Fortis Escorts Hospital in Faridabad. Nowadays, even patients without a history of respiratory diseases suffer from severe cough and difficulty breathing.
“Patients who have a respiratory history like asthma have more frequent attacks and even inside the hospital, patients are taking more than usual to recover from asthma and COPD attacks. Viral infection is quite common in this weather, but even those without evidence of viral infection are taking longer and higher doses of medication to recover,” he said.
Dr Hemant Kalra, a chest specialist at Maharaja Agrasen Hospital in New Delhi, agreed with Jha and said the increase in pollution as well as the cold and dry air due to the change of seasons could irritate the airways and cause symptoms such as shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing and asthma attacks.