Rains leave City wheezing

Rapid urbanisation has resulted in the rise of patients suffering from respiratory ailments
Last Updated : 26 October 2013, 18:23 IST
Last Updated : 26 October 2013, 18:23 IST

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Asthma and other respiratory disorders in Bangalore are generally attributed to City’s indeterminate weather. Medical specialists who confirm the link between the two say 65 per cent of respiratory disorders, including asthma, occur between the months of June and October, during monsoon and winter every year.

But this year, Bangalore has had very heavy and extended rains in the last two months, heavier than the City has seen in the last three to four years, and winter has already set in along with yet another smatter of rain, this time from northeast monsoon. The weather has been fairly uneven this entire monsoon and post-monsoon season. Doctors say while asthma patients and those with other respiratory disorders visit hospitals every year during this season, this year, owing to heavy monsoon and rapidly changing weather patterns, more people are visiting hospitals reporting respiratory ailments.

Dr Sudarshan Ballal of Manipal Hospital says the hospital has seen 20 to 25 per cent rise in the number of patients seeking treatment for respiratory disorders, some mild, and some serious. “Our hospital has been seeing lot more people experiencing cough and cold problems, lung infections, breathing problems and exacerbation of asthma in the last couple of months. There have been many bronchitis patients, too. We see many children, but there have been adult patients as well. With rains over the last few months being intense and weather patterns shifting dramatically within the same day has led to cold and cough conditions, which turn into serious problems later. The northeast monsoon is also setting in and we expect asthma patients will have a tough time.”

Dr Ballal warns people with respiratory disorders to keep away from crackers during Deepavali festival. “The cold weather, and smoke from crackers, form a deadly concoction for asthma patients. I would ask them to keep away from all smoke and chemicals that crackers emit. Air pollution caused by smoke will exacerbate asthma.”

Narayana Health Hospital too is seeing steady stream of patients with respiratory problems. Hospital’s Pulmonologist, Dr Murali Mohan noted: “There have also been cases of viral pneumonia. From three to four patients, we now see about eight patients a day. Asthma patients, in particular, have to take care in these months.”

Lakeside Hospital too has seen lot of patients in the last two months. It’s Medical Director Dr H Paramesh says the hospital has been seeing people with wheezing problems, breathing problems and lung infections. While weather explains respiratory problems to some extent, there are other factors causing asthma, says Paramesh.

Observation of patients over 30 years in the City, he says, has demonstrated that respiratory disorders, lung infections, bronchitis and asthma are also related to City’s massive urbanisation. Lakeside Hospital has data on respiratory disorders of patients as far back as 1979 to 2009. “Our analysis of data on respiratory disorders has shown clearly that urbanisation and environmental conditions are primary causes of  respiratory disorders. Urbanisation includes specific factors like overcrowding, traffic, dust and air pollution. Among these, slow-moving traffic is a dreaded cause — it generates pollutants six times more than the normal. The link between urbanisation and asthma is confirmed even in Mumbai and other metros.”  Dr Paramesh says to this extent, urbanisation in all metros would lead to asthmatic problems. He argues that during summer in Bangalore, 15 years ago, cough and wheezing problems formed just 2 per cent of respiratory ailments, while 15 years later, they have risen to 28.5
per cent.

Doctors say that asthma is characterised by recurrent wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and coughing. Sputum may be produced from lung by coughing. Symptoms of asthma are usually worse at night and in the early morning or in response to exercise or cold air. Asthma is also accompanied by certain ailments like gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD), rhinosinusitis, and obstructive sleep apnea.
Psychological disorders like anxiety and mood disorders are said to accompany severe asthma as breathing problems lead to anxiety. Some individuals have stable asthma for weeks or months and suddenly develop an episode of acute asthma. Different individuals react differently to various factors. Most individuals can develop severe exacerbation from a number of triggering agents. Many environmental factors have been associated with asthma's development and exacerbation including allergens, air pollution, and other environmental chemicals. Low air quality from factors such as traffic pollution or high ozone levels are said to cause asthma.

Bangalore’s asthma profile may also have intensified owing to heavy vehicular population. With nearly 46 lakh vehicles in the City, the release of fumes into the air is dramatically high. Certain regions in Bangalore have greater air pollution compared to other areas — Residency Road, JC Road, KG Road are just some of the areas where air pollution and presence of fumes in the air is very high owing to the high number of vehicles that ply on these roads. Areas closer to Cubbon Park and Lalbagh have greater pollen presence even if pollution is lower. Early morning walks in such regions and parks can be risky for patients with respiratory problems.

Published 26 October 2013, 18:23 IST

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