A Doctor’s Guide on Coping with Air Pollution

A doctor’s guide to surviving India’s air pollution crisis. Signs and symptoms you need to be wary of.

2 min read

Seven of the world's 10 worst polluted cities are in India. With air pollution posing a global health crisis, I want to discuss some signs and symptoms of respiratory suffering that one may dismiss, and what we can do to fortify our lungs in a choking city.

A doctor’s guide to surviving India’s air pollution crisis. Signs and symptoms you need to be wary of.
A woman wears a mask during a demonstration against rising pollution levels in Delhi on 6 November 2016.
(Photo: IANS/ Altered by FIT)
Firstly, Watch your breathing carefully. It is absolutely normal, unfortunately, to witness a bit of discomfort and tightness as a result of severe pollution. But if this is coming in the way of your ordinary functioning and making even slight exertion impossible, go meet a doctor

Lung Cancer and Air Pollution

The most severe impact of toxic air is lung cancer and it is best managed when detected early. Here’s some signs you need to watch out for:

  • During your routine blood work, signs can show up such as in the form of high calcium.
  • If you feel your eyes have been droopy, your lymph nodes are swollen, your breathing is weak – these are all prompts your body’s giving to get tested. They can be signs both individually and in combination.
  • X-Rays and CT Scans are often recommended but a full confirmation is usually through a lung biopsy.
  • Insist upon a biopsy because in early stages, X-Rays, saliva, and mucus are not great tests for detecting small tumors. All methods of detection are absolutely not the same in this regard.

Lifestyle Changes

  • Firstly, kick the butt already. You know exactly how much damage the city is already doing to you, do not voluntarily compound it.
  • Next up, eat better. If you have been meaning to regulate your food intake to include more immunity inducing food, there is genuinely no better time than the coming months. Give your body the ammunition required to fight off the fumes.
  • Third, drink more water with the basic idea of upping the hydration quotient.
  • Fourth, stay indoors. Especially important in the case of your workout and if you must go outdoors, invest in a sturdy mask. I know air purifiers can be a polarizing topic, with some vouching for and others disavowing them. A more economic solution could also be to consider air-cleaning with plants. Plants in indoor spaces have also been linked to lower stress levels and blood pressure.

Finally, we Indians account for a quarter of the world’s air pollution related deaths. It’s time to raise your voice and push the policy makers to take air pollution seriously.

Editor: Prashant Chauhan

Camera: Nitin Chopra

(With over 20 years of clinical, investment and operational experience in the healthcare sector, Dr Amit Varma brings with him a domain expertise that links all facets of healthcare. He is a reputed physician with diverse healthcare management leadership roles and has headed numerous companies)

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