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Are More Mumbaikars Complaining About Relentless Coughing Than Before?

Top pulmonologists in Mumbai are witnessing an 'exponential rise' in the number of chronic cough, wheezing cases.

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Fit
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Kavya Malhotra, a resident of Mumbai's Ghatkopar area, would have been considered a healthy 20-year-old until three months ago. She ate a balanced diet, did her daily workouts, and had no underlying comorbidities.

Since early December, however, Kavya has been relentlessly coughing, and has developed wheezing. After several rounds of antibiotics, a few chest x-rays, her doctors suggested she get tested for influenza. She is currently on heavy medication, and her road to recovery is much longer than expected.

Top pulmonologists in Mumbai are witnessing an 'exponential rise' in the number of chronic cough, wheezing, upper-respiratory infections since December last year – estimating it to be almost five-fold increase, as compared to previous years.

"We see such cases every year because of winter, drop in temperature. It lasts for a month or so. But now we are in March, and still witnessing cases. This year the infection rates have been very high and we have been documenting them because these patients are getting admitted," said Dr Jayalakshmi TK of Apollo Hospitals Mumbai, a pulmonologist with over 25 years of experience, told FIT.

Are More Mumbaikars Complaining About Relentless Coughing Than Before?

  1. 1. What Symptoms Do Patients Exhibit

    There is a pattern, say doctors. While the fever lasts for only three-four days, it is the dry cough, sore throat, or hoarseness in voice that is persistent.

    "Usually, we see one among hundred who has excessive cough. But right now, 50 percent of patients have this," Dr Jayalakshmi added.

    Like that of 35-year-old Priti Munde, who is running a cloud kitchen, in Andheri West. She first started experiencing a 'scratch' in her throat in early January, which turned into what she thought was 'viral infection.' When FIT spoke to her on 28 February, she was still under medication, and has not been any better.

    "I have been tested for almost everything. From COVID, to influenza, to swine flu. But this chronic cough just won't stop."

    "Normally, if you have a viral infection, the cough should subside in two-three days. These infections are self-limiting. But here, we witness persistent cough – more than 10 days, more than a month, or even two months in many cases," Dr Pujan Parikh, Consultant, Pulmonary Medicine department at Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital told FIT.

    "Post a viral infection, five to 10 percent of people would have these persistent symptoms. But the number is way too high to ignore now," he added.
    Expand
  2. 2. Why Is This Happening?

    The top pulmonologists, who spoke to FIT, point all fingers at pollution, and the relentless construction that is happening all across the city. On 14 February, Mumbai overtook Delhi as the second-most polluted city in the world, as per global Air Quality Index.

    A Delhi vs Mumbai war, the city should not be proud of winning, the doctor added.

    "It has become harder to breathe in the city. There has been construction across the city, the and it is making recovery slower because people are being exposed to severly polluted air. The AQI levels have dropped so drastically, even in Navi Mumbai, which is known for better air quality, and more green cover," Dr Jayalakshmi said.

    Dr Kirti Sabnis, Infectious Disease Specialist, Fortis Hospital Mulund & Kalyan, agrees.

    "Older people with bronchial asthma, chronic lung proble because of dust exposure are also taking longer to recover than usual. Delayed clearance from infection causes mucous plugging. It triggers underlying conditions, people are recovering slowly or late."

    There are multiple studies that point that pollution affects basically the respiratory system, the lungs and leads to increase in the pro-inflammatory condition. The patient thus is not only at the risk of asthma attacks, but is also at the risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), experts point.

    Expand
  3. 3. When Should You See a Doctor

    According to Dr Parikh, persistent symptoms in children, and senior citizens should definitely not be ignored – and so should symptoms in adults who have no co-morbidities.

    Experts suggest that you must consult a general physician or a pulmonologist if you have:

    • Persistent fever after 3-4 days

    • Dry cough or sore throat beyond a week

    • Difficulties in breathing when you hit the bed

    • Irritational cough at night

    • Signs of asthma or wheezing in those who have not been diagnosed earlier

    "I am seeing really young patients with influenza – who have to get admitted to hospitals, without any sort of comorbidities. It is concerning, so if you have persistent symptoms, start treatment early," Dr Jayalakshmi added.

    But what's important is to also complete the course of treatment, according to Dr Sabnis. "Complete your antibiotics course. Do not stop it thinking you are getting better. And, avoid exposure to smoke as much as you can," she said.

    (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

What Symptoms Do Patients Exhibit

There is a pattern, say doctors. While the fever lasts for only three-four days, it is the dry cough, sore throat, or hoarseness in voice that is persistent.

"Usually, we see one among hundred who has excessive cough. But right now, 50 percent of patients have this," Dr Jayalakshmi added.

Like that of 35-year-old Priti Munde, who is running a cloud kitchen, in Andheri West. She first started experiencing a 'scratch' in her throat in early January, which turned into what she thought was 'viral infection.' When FIT spoke to her on 28 February, she was still under medication, and has not been any better.

"I have been tested for almost everything. From COVID, to influenza, to swine flu. But this chronic cough just won't stop."

"Normally, if you have a viral infection, the cough should subside in two-three days. These infections are self-limiting. But here, we witness persistent cough – more than 10 days, more than a month, or even two months in many cases," Dr Pujan Parikh, Consultant, Pulmonary Medicine department at Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital told FIT.

"Post a viral infection, five to 10 percent of people would have these persistent symptoms. But the number is way too high to ignore now," he added.
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Why Is This Happening?

The top pulmonologists, who spoke to FIT, point all fingers at pollution, and the relentless construction that is happening all across the city. On 14 February, Mumbai overtook Delhi as the second-most polluted city in the world, as per global Air Quality Index.

A Delhi vs Mumbai war, the city should not be proud of winning, the doctor added.

"It has become harder to breathe in the city. There has been construction across the city, the and it is making recovery slower because people are being exposed to severly polluted air. The AQI levels have dropped so drastically, even in Navi Mumbai, which is known for better air quality, and more green cover," Dr Jayalakshmi said.

Dr Kirti Sabnis, Infectious Disease Specialist, Fortis Hospital Mulund & Kalyan, agrees.

"Older people with bronchial asthma, chronic lung proble because of dust exposure are also taking longer to recover than usual. Delayed clearance from infection causes mucous plugging. It triggers underlying conditions, people are recovering slowly or late."

There are multiple studies that point that pollution affects basically the respiratory system, the lungs and leads to increase in the pro-inflammatory condition. The patient thus is not only at the risk of asthma attacks, but is also at the risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), experts point.

0

When Should You See a Doctor

According to Dr Parikh, persistent symptoms in children, and senior citizens should definitely not be ignored – and so should symptoms in adults who have no co-morbidities.

Experts suggest that you must consult a general physician or a pulmonologist if you have:

  • Persistent fever after 3-4 days

  • Dry cough or sore throat beyond a week

  • Difficulties in breathing when you hit the bed

  • Irritational cough at night

  • Signs of asthma or wheezing in those who have not been diagnosed earlier

"I am seeing really young patients with influenza – who have to get admitted to hospitals, without any sort of comorbidities. It is concerning, so if you have persistent symptoms, start treatment early," Dr Jayalakshmi added.

But what's important is to also complete the course of treatment, according to Dr Sabnis. "Complete your antibiotics course. Do not stop it thinking you are getting better. And, avoid exposure to smoke as much as you can," she said.

(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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Topics:  Mumbai Pollution 

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