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From the Doc's Office: Having Sudden Cough Attacks in Delhi? You Are Not Alone

This pollution season, how can you protect yourself from cough attacks? Experts explain.

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Breathlessness, throat irritation, sudden spurts of wheezing cough — If you live in the Delhi National Capital Region, you're likely all too familiar with these telltale symptoms that mark the onset of pollution season.

In the last two weeks, corresponding to the steadily plunging AQI levels in the National Capital, 3 in 4 families in the region reported having one or more members with a sore throat, cough, and burning eyes, found a survey by Delhi-based citizen group LocalCirles.

The survey involved responses from 32,000 people from Delhi, Gurugram, Noida, Faridabad, and Ghaziabad. Of these:

  • 75 percent had sore throat and/or cough.

  • 75 percent reported having 'burning eyes'.

  • 38 percent indicated having breathing difficulty or asthma.

Speaking to FIT, doctors from across Delhi NCR said they have been seeing a spike in cases of respiratory symptoms in the past couple of weeks, and they're bracing for the situation to only get worse.

What are the symptoms to look out for? How are they treated, and how can you protect yourself?

From the Doc's Office: Having Sudden Cough Attacks in Delhi? You Are Not Alone

  1. 1. Doctor's Speak: What's The Situation Like Right Now?

    "Yes, there has been a definite increase in the number of patients coming to us in the OPD with symptoms of nagging cough which persists despite treatment."
    Dr Bharat Gopal, Director, Pulmonology, Delhi Heart & Lung Institute

    "In the past fifteen days, there has been an increase in patients who are coming in with cough, especially dry cough and throat irritation," says Dr Tushar Tayal, Lead Consultant, Department of Internal Medicine, CK Birla Hospital, Gurugram.

    "We’ve been seeing this for several years now in this city (Delhi). Younger people, children, middle-aged people, everyone is suffering from an allergic dry cough,” says Dr Suranjeet Chatterjee, Senior Consultant, Internal Medicine, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, Delhi.

    Expand
  2. 2. What Are the Symptoms Going Around?

    According to the doctors we spoke to from across the city, typical symptoms they've been seeing include:

    • Dry cough (not accompanied by fever, weight loss, loss in appetite and other systemic symptoms)

    • Throat irritation

    • Wheezing

    • Breathlessness

    • Eye burning

    • Skin Irritation

    • Feeling of tightness and congestion in the chest

    Allergic cough is generally dry, sudden, and not accompanied by other symptoms of flu. It usually results in bouts of cough triggered by dust, pollens or other irritants in the air.

    Experts add, symptoms are worse for people who already have respiratory issues. "Those who were using inhalers before are now needing nebulizers. Some patients are also requiring steroid tablets," says Dr Sushila Kataria, Senior Director, Internal Medicine, Medanta Hospital, Gurugram.

    Expand
  3. 3. Why Is It Happening?

    According to experts, the rise in these symptoms this time of the year is due to a combination of factors.

    "It’s a mix of geography, vehicular exhaust, and dust (especially due to construction), which leads to this phenomenon of poor air quality every year," says Dr Bharat Gopal.

    On top of the poor air quality, the change in weather is also a time when viruses thrive, say experts.

    "The lungs are more vulnerable because of pollution, but people right now are more prone to viral infections as well. So this is a 'double-trouble', especially for people with pre-existing lung disease," adds Dr Kataria.

    Expand
  4. 4. Who Should Watch Out?

    Not everyone's body will respond to these triggers in the same way. While long and short-term exposure to air pollution is known to impact respiratory health in general, some people are more vulnerable than others.

    • People with a past history of asthma, bronchitis, COPD.

    • People a family history of asthma and respiratory illnesses.

    • Immunocompromised people, and those with other comorbidities.

    • People who have a history of pollen and dust allergies.

    • The elderly, and young children.

    "Children go to school, play outdoors, and are around crowds far more than adults, and so we see more cases of respiratory issues among young children during this time. Both allergic as well as infectious."
    Dr Tushar Tayal, Lead Consultant, Department of Internal Medicine, CK Birla Hospital, Gurugram
    Expand
  5. 5. 'Antibiotics Won't Work’: Then What Will?

    First and foremost, experts want you to know that antibiotics are not the answer, particularly when it comes to allergic coughs and symptoms.

    "It's prescribed very frequently and people self-medicate with over-the-counter antibiotics too. This needs to stop."
    Dr Suranjeet Chatterjee, Senior Consultant, Internal Medicine, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, Delhi

    However, he says, for dry coughs that are triggered by irritants, anti-allergins can help, and he adds, "Sometimes you might need inhalers."

    According to Dr Tayal, in cases of dry cough, cough syrups and lozenges can give temporary relief as well.

    How can you protect yourself?

    • Mask up

    "We know that wearing face masks can help protect against pollution and also viruses. I would advise everyone should wear a mask right now when they go out," says Dr Tayal.

    If you're confused about what kind of mask you should be buying, here’s a detailed guide that can help.

    • Contol indoor pollution

    We can't control the AQI outside, but we can minimise it indoors to an extent.

    "Using air purifiers, keeping the doors and windows closed, keeping some indoor plants, using chimneys in the kitchen may be helpful," adds Dr Ramani Ranjan.

    • Eat healthy

    "Keep yourself well hydrated, have a healthy diet with antioxidants and take the medicines for the pre-existing illnesses along with symptomatic treatment," says Dr Gopal.

    • Adjust your exercise routine

    "Someone who is used to early morning and evening walks and runs should switch to indoor exercises," says Dr Sushila Kataria.

    How can you protect children?

    Protecting children is trickier because they tend to be harder to keep masked up and restricted indoors.

    "Masks are not recommended for children under the age of five, but older children can use masks when they are going to crowded places, particularly if they have symptoms."
    Dr Ramani Ranjan, Head of Neonatology & Pediatrics, Apollo Cradle and Children's Hospital, Greater Noida

    "If a child has a cough and other flu-like symptoms, avoid sending them to school, in case its viral and can spread to other kids," adds Dr Ramani Ranjan.

    Also,

    • Make sure they get adequate sleep.

    • Maintain hand-hygiene.

    • Restrict their outdoor activities, particularly in the evenings.

    • If your child has a history of asthma, get them checked and adjust their medication accordingly.

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

Doctor's Speak: What's The Situation Like Right Now?

"Yes, there has been a definite increase in the number of patients coming to us in the OPD with symptoms of nagging cough which persists despite treatment."
Dr Bharat Gopal, Director, Pulmonology, Delhi Heart & Lung Institute

"In the past fifteen days, there has been an increase in patients who are coming in with cough, especially dry cough and throat irritation," says Dr Tushar Tayal, Lead Consultant, Department of Internal Medicine, CK Birla Hospital, Gurugram.

"We’ve been seeing this for several years now in this city (Delhi). Younger people, children, middle-aged people, everyone is suffering from an allergic dry cough,” says Dr Suranjeet Chatterjee, Senior Consultant, Internal Medicine, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, Delhi.

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

What Are the Symptoms Going Around?

According to the doctors we spoke to from across the city, typical symptoms they've been seeing include:

  • Dry cough (not accompanied by fever, weight loss, loss in appetite and other systemic symptoms)

  • Throat irritation

  • Wheezing

  • Breathlessness

  • Eye burning

  • Skin Irritation

  • Feeling of tightness and congestion in the chest

Allergic cough is generally dry, sudden, and not accompanied by other symptoms of flu. It usually results in bouts of cough triggered by dust, pollens or other irritants in the air.

Experts add, symptoms are worse for people who already have respiratory issues. "Those who were using inhalers before are now needing nebulizers. Some patients are also requiring steroid tablets," says Dr Sushila Kataria, Senior Director, Internal Medicine, Medanta Hospital, Gurugram.

0

Why Is It Happening?

According to experts, the rise in these symptoms this time of the year is due to a combination of factors.

"It’s a mix of geography, vehicular exhaust, and dust (especially due to construction), which leads to this phenomenon of poor air quality every year," says Dr Bharat Gopal.

On top of the poor air quality, the change in weather is also a time when viruses thrive, say experts.

"The lungs are more vulnerable because of pollution, but people right now are more prone to viral infections as well. So this is a 'double-trouble', especially for people with pre-existing lung disease," adds Dr Kataria.

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

Who Should Watch Out?

Not everyone's body will respond to these triggers in the same way. While long and short-term exposure to air pollution is known to impact respiratory health in general, some people are more vulnerable than others.

  • People with a past history of asthma, bronchitis, COPD.

  • People a family history of asthma and respiratory illnesses.

  • Immunocompromised people, and those with other comorbidities.

  • People who have a history of pollen and dust allergies.

  • The elderly, and young children.

"Children go to school, play outdoors, and are around crowds far more than adults, and so we see more cases of respiratory issues among young children during this time. Both allergic as well as infectious."
Dr Tushar Tayal, Lead Consultant, Department of Internal Medicine, CK Birla Hospital, Gurugram
ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

'Antibiotics Won't Work’: Then What Will?

First and foremost, experts want you to know that antibiotics are not the answer, particularly when it comes to allergic coughs and symptoms.

"It's prescribed very frequently and people self-medicate with over-the-counter antibiotics too. This needs to stop."
Dr Suranjeet Chatterjee, Senior Consultant, Internal Medicine, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, Delhi

However, he says, for dry coughs that are triggered by irritants, anti-allergins can help, and he adds, "Sometimes you might need inhalers."

According to Dr Tayal, in cases of dry cough, cough syrups and lozenges can give temporary relief as well.

How can you protect yourself?

  • Mask up

"We know that wearing face masks can help protect against pollution and also viruses. I would advise everyone should wear a mask right now when they go out," says Dr Tayal.

If you're confused about what kind of mask you should be buying, here’s a detailed guide that can help.

  • Contol indoor pollution

We can't control the AQI outside, but we can minimise it indoors to an extent.

"Using air purifiers, keeping the doors and windows closed, keeping some indoor plants, using chimneys in the kitchen may be helpful," adds Dr Ramani Ranjan.

  • Eat healthy

"Keep yourself well hydrated, have a healthy diet with antioxidants and take the medicines for the pre-existing illnesses along with symptomatic treatment," says Dr Gopal.

  • Adjust your exercise routine

"Someone who is used to early morning and evening walks and runs should switch to indoor exercises," says Dr Sushila Kataria.

How can you protect children?

Protecting children is trickier because they tend to be harder to keep masked up and restricted indoors.

"Masks are not recommended for children under the age of five, but older children can use masks when they are going to crowded places, particularly if they have symptoms."
Dr Ramani Ranjan, Head of Neonatology & Pediatrics, Apollo Cradle and Children's Hospital, Greater Noida

"If a child has a cough and other flu-like symptoms, avoid sending them to school, in case its viral and can spread to other kids," adds Dr Ramani Ranjan.

Also,

  • Make sure they get adequate sleep.

  • Maintain hand-hygiene.

  • Restrict their outdoor activities, particularly in the evenings.

  • If your child has a history of asthma, get them checked and adjust their medication accordingly.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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