Living With COVID Lungs & Struggling with Air Pollution: Tips to Stay Safe

2 min read
Living With COVID Lungs & Struggling with Air Pollution: Tips to Stay Safe

As the Air Quality Index crossed the 'Hazardous' mark after Diwali in the capital city, those living with damaged 'COVID lungs' struggled to breathe.

"When I got COVID in December 2020, my lungs were ravaged. I stepped out for five minutes on the day after Diwali, and I was gasping for breath," says Santosh, a 40 year old living in Noida.

According to Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), AQI hovered over 400 in most areas of NCR. With temperatures dropping in the coming days, air pollution is expected to rise.

Doctors say those living with long COVID, symptoms of which include damaged lungs or heart muscles have to be particularly careful.

Air pollution can cause respiratory distress even in those who have healthy lungs. But for those struggling with lung disease, the rise in AQI levels can be distressing.

Air Pollution and COVID-19

COVID-19 and air pollution impact every organ in our body, and air pollution is linked to specific comorbidities that also cause severe outcomes in patients with COVID-19.

Similarly air pollution has been linked to more severe outcomes in COVID-19 patients. Not just this, even after recovering from COVID-19, air pollution can cause the symptoms to re emerge, and worsen respiratory health.

Dr Manish Sharma, a senior consultant with Delhi's Fortis Hospital, says that air pollution can create problems for those who have recovered from COVID-19.

This is because those who have recovered from COVID-19 still have lingering effects of the disease, and air pollution can worsen this. For those who have damaged lungs, air pollution can lead to cough and breathing difficulties.
Dr Manish Sharma, Senior Consultant, Fortis Hospital

Dr Devendra Kundra, a pulmonologist with Delhi's Manipal Hospital says those who had moderate and severe COVID-19 often have damaged lungs.

It's been seen that in damaged lungs, the ability to fight infection reduces, thats why exposure to air pollution increases the risk of infection in these patients.
Dr Devendra Kundra, Pulmonologist, Manipal Hospital

Dr Kundra further says:

  • The risk of viral, bacterial and fungal infections increases.

  • It increases respiratory allergies.

  • Airways become hyper reactive, asthma-like symptoms appear - breathing difficulty, whistling sounds, heavy chest, constant cough.

For those who had severe COVID-19 and are still dependent on oxygen, the requirement for oxygen increases.

So How Do You Keep Yourself Safe? 

  • Stay indoors, step out only when necessary.

  • If you are already living with some comorbidities, you need to be extra careful and not let your guard down.

  • Wear a mask when stepping out. Maintain physical distancing and hand hygiene.

  • In areas with heavy pollution, its safer to wear N95 masks. It's better to wear an N95 mask without a valve.

  • In the mornings, air pollution levels are higher. Avoid exercising outdoors.

  • Avoid exercising in areas with high traffic, smog and fog.

  • Avoid burning anything indoors at home to reduce indoor air pollution. Increased indoor air pollution can lead to respiratory disease.

  • Make sure you take your medication including inhalers and nebulizers on time.

  • Use air purifiers when possible. Keep the air purifier clean and regularly change filters.

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