Pulmonary pangs: Bengalureans go under the weather

Cloudy weather is seen in Bengaluru on Friday. Photo by S K Dinesh

Changing weather conditions has triggered a spurt in the number of respiratory infection cases, allergic rhinitis and allergic bronchitis, say city doctors.

Sporadic rains and a drop in temperature have aided in the spread of infection while also worsening it for some.

A recent data from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare revealed that Karnataka had 22 lakh cases and 73 deaths in 2017, while in 2018, the number of cases went up to 24 lakh and casualty count to 103.

Dr Vivek Anand Padegal, director of pulmonology, Fortis Hospitals, Bannerghatta Road, pointed to urban congestion, lack of adequate ventilation and poor weather as reasons for the increase in respiratory infection.

“It gets severe for those with co-morbidities or people who are immuno-compromised,” Dr Vivek said. “This is the beginning of the (cold) season and the unseasonal rains have also added to the infection. Earlier, respiratory infections were seen between November and January, but now it starts as early as October and goes up to March,” he added.

Dr Shashidhar Buggi, former director, Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Chest Diseases, said a third of all OPD cases seen by doctors in any hospital is usually respiratory infection.

“We breathe polluted air with chemicals that cause inflammation of the respiratory system,” he said. “The constant inflammation causes immunological changes. This changes the body’s immunity and makes it prone to respiratory infection.”

The city’s air is filled with a deadly cocktail of construction dust, pollution around metro building sites and changing weather conditions. Doctors say it is little wonder that citizens are choking and gasping with infection.

Dr Ramesh Babu, general physician, KC General Hospital, said he has been seeing patients complaining of breathlessness, cough, cold, chest infection and other weather-related ailments. “Allergic bronchitis and allergic rhinitis are on the rise in the city. Dust from construction sites and vehicular pollution are among the main contributors,” he said.

Metro construction and razing of the flyover have released large clouds of dust along Bannerghatta Road.

Dr Padegal said he had been observing an increase in respiratory cases for the past six months. “Our patients are those living along the Bannerghatta Road corridor.”

An individual daily respires 10,000 litres of air, said Dr Sunil Kumar, pulmonologist, Aster Hospital. “While all of this should be oxygen, smog and dust is added to the air in the city. So, allergic manifestations are seen in those who are vulnerable. This causes a deterioration in the lung function capacity and make them more prone to infections,” he said.

Official take

Official data also corroborates this observation by indicating that acute respiratory infections account for the highest morbidity rate. The national health profile says 69.47% of morbidity is due to respiratory infections. This is far more than diarrhoea, typhoid or tuberculosis.

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