Asthmatics should be cautious

Festival: Doctors advice people to take precautions to make it a happy Deepavali

However, the smoke produced by firecrackers during the festival of lights just aggravates the situation leading to congestion and respiratory infections.

The incidences of people developing asthma and other respiratory infections have increased in the past five years said Dr C Nagaraj, Head of Department of Pulmonology Medicine, Bangalore Medical College. "The air is already polluted in Bangalore. The firecrackers during Deepavali further add to the pollution causing uneasiness in breathing. All these factors are enough to increase the number of asthmatic patients, year after year," he said.

Dr Rudraprasad, Medical Officer of Allergy and Asthma Clinic at Kempegowda Institute of Medical Sciences (KIMS), said that as the smoke due to firecrackers is everywhere, nearly 80 per cent of the people suffering from severe to mild form of asthma experience some level of exaggeration.

In fact, asthma patients under medication are highly prone to the smoke produced by firecrackers during Deepawali.

"The moment they are exposed to chemicals released by firecrackers, it causes irritation, which leads to worsening of their condition. It takes them longer time to recover," he said.  Hence, such people should consult their doctors before the festival and enquire whether they should take preventive medicines, which will reduce the attacks. In fact, prolonged exposure to the fumes can damage respiratory system leading to respiratory infection, he said. “I am already receiving queries from patients on precautionary measures they should take as they have suffered previously," Dr Rudraprasad he revealed. 

Dr Aradhya, Medical Superintendent of K C General Hospital, said, "We usually notice a 10 to 15 per cent increase in patients suffering from moderate to severe bronchitis after Deepawali. As a result, we have kept two nebuliser machines in the causality ward, so that when they come to the hospital, we can nebulize and discharge them."

Breathlessness
Dr Rajanna, Resident Medical Officer, Bowring and Lady Cruzon Hospital, said that every year after the Deepavali, they receive more number of patients for breathlessness than for burn injuries.  "In spite of spreading awareness about precautions to be taken while bursting crackers, year after year we still receive 10-15 burn injury patients.  But what is more alarming is that nearly 60 patients visit our hospital with some respiratory problems.  Normally patients develop breathlessness, chronic/allergic bronchitis, acute exacerbation due to polluted air," he said.

A person with pre-existing health complications like asthma and other respiratory problems develops severe symptoms during this festival says Dr Arun, Pulmonologist from Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Chest Diseases.  "People with existing respiratory problems should be very careful. They must not get exposed to the smoke directly as there are chances of developing respiratory distress." he suggested.
However, it's not just people with asthma who need to be cautious. The smoke from firecrackers can worsen the condition of people with nasobronchal allergy, common cold, running nose, throat congestion, etc. Interestingly, Dr Huliraj N, consultant pulmonologist at Mallya Hospital and Columbia Asia Hospital, said youngsters are showing more reaction to the firecracker smoke than older people, especially when it comes to nasal allergy.

Precautionary measures
Dr Rudraprasad said that people should avoid snake tablets and flower pots as they release a lot of fumes. "People should also prevent using sparklers as the person's respiratory system is directly exposed to the smoke," he said.
As a precaution, Dr Huliraj said, people with breathing problem should ideally stay indoors. However, if they want to go out, they should do so either wearing a mask or enjoy bursting of firecrackers from a distance. Dr Arun added that people who do not have respiratory problem and have underlying symptoms may develop breathing problem. “Keeping inhalers handy and avoiding direct exposure to the smoke can help reduce the risk”, he said.

Touching upon the policy issue, Dr Rudraprasad said that the government should have some standardisation norms for manufacturing firecrackers.

Fumes cause havoc
When a patient with breath problem inhales chemical fumes from the firecrackers, it causes inflammation in the respiratory tube. The smooth muscles around the tube also contracts initiating broncho-constriction. This leads to reduction in air flow and the person puts in more effort to breath. However, the air that he inhales is again the polluted one and worsens his condition.  

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