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COVID Times: Be Mindful Of What You’re Breathing In

Dr. Pragnya Rao

In today’s ever-deteriorating environment, respiratory problems have become quite common.

Breathing is a fundamental process of life – it keeps us alive. But in today’s ever-deteriorating environment, breathing comes with its own set of perils. With the winter season approaching and easing of lockdown, many cities are bearing the brunt of poor air quality. Bad air quality contributes to increased vulnerability to respiratory illnesses.

Therefore, the need of the hour is knowing about risk factors that may cause breathing problems and steering clear of them is the most effective way of avoiding respiratory illnesses. Let’s understand 4 common factors that lead to various breathing issues.

Outdoor pollutants 

Owing to sheer industrial growth and rapid urbanization, our respiratory health is at a greater risk now. Power plants, factories, and vehicles spew out harmful fumes and gases, along with minute particles. In strong sunlight, oxides of nitrogen from exhaust fumes form ozone at ground level, which can trigger an asthma attack, or lead to other complications.

Although unavoidable at times, there are certain measures one can take to elude the ill effects of outdoor pollution.

  • Check the air quality index outside before stepping out
  • If you have a heart or respiratory illness, always carry your medication
  • Avoid places where the air is polluted – busy roads, industrial areas, etc
  • Wear a mask before leaving home
  • Minimize the pollution, opt for eco-friendly options to travel – walk or ride a cycle

Indoor allergens 

We sleep here. We eat here. We work here. But it’s alarming to know that a horde of allergens and germs could be inhabiting your abode without you even being aware of their presence. So, who exactly are these unassuming tenants? While traditional cleaning methods of sweeping with a broom help in surface-level cleaning, dust is usually only dispersed in the air and later settles down on everyday objects, even food. Dust can contain particles of dust mites and cockroaches which may lead to allergic reactions and sometimes, asthma. Pets unknowingly may add to the risk of developing respiratory illnesses as their loose fur can trigger allergies and respiratory complications.

Here are a few steps you can take to keep your home free of allergens:

  • Switch to the more effective method of cleaning – vacuum instead of sweeping
  • Frequently brush your pets to collect any loose fur
  • Leave your footwear at the doorstep
  • Regularly change your bed sheets, pillows, cushion covers, etc.
  • Throw out the trash, don’t let it stagnate

Occupational hazards 

For many of us, most of our day is spent at work. And for many of us, where we work can affect our respiratory health detrimentally. Depending on the work environment and the nature of work, some professionals may be at a higher risk of developing respiratory illnesses.

Some professions with occupational hazards include:

  • Factory workers and construction workers are constantly subjected to dust and fumes making them susceptible
  • Agriculturists and farmers are at a great risk owing to their exposure to particles of wood, pesticides, cereal grains, and other such particles that can cause complications
  • Firefighters inhale smoke which contains a variety of harmful particles, gases, and vapours

Smoking

This one’s a no-brainer. If you’re a smoker, drop the butt! It is a known fact that smoking increases your chances of cancer. If you must get addicted, get addicted to good health. Smoking can cause significant complications and is especially damaging to your lungs and airways. Some implications of the harmful effects of the chemicals in tar are sudden – like coughing, wheezing, and cold. While fatal ailments may take longer to develop – like pneumonia, emphysema, and lung cancer.

The positive effects of giving up the dirty habit can be witnessed almost instantly. Here’s what happens when you quit smoking:

  • 20 minutes after you quit, your heart rate normalizes
  • 8-12 hours after you quit, your blood carbon monoxide level drops
  • 48 hours after quitting, your ability to smell & taste improves, as damaged nerve endings begin to regrow
  • 2 weeks to 3 months after quitting, your risk of heart attack drops considerably

The takeaway

Apart from common illnesses like cold and flu, this year we have COVID-19 as well. It is important to keep in mind that with the rise in pollution levels, the coronavirus transmission is bound to increase as well. If you suffer from bronchitis or asthma, be alert at all times. It is best you do not venture outdoors unless it is absolutely necessary. For the rest, it is in your best interest to stay indoors and minimize outdoor activities. Masks aren’t just for the pandemic, but they help filter out dust and pollutants too. Wear masks wherever required.

Be mindful of what you’re breathing in.

If you are facing any breathing difficulty or have any queries related to lung health, you can reach out to our doctors on the MFine app. Now consult specialists from the comfort of your home. Ab #HarGharMeinDoctor

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