The festival of lights has arrived! While people prepare to celebrate the most anticipated festival of the year, they are also concerned about the pandemic and pollution. With the multiple variants of Coronavirus continuing to wreak havoc on our lives, air pollution is exacerbating the problem. For the uninformed, air pollution has the potential to harm our organs and bodily functions. It can aggravate COPD, bronchial asthma, allergies, fatigue, anxiety, worsen headaches, eye, throat, and nose irritation, as well as potentially harm the nervous and cardiovascular systems.

Because the Coronavirus primarily affects the lungs, people with preexisting conditions, particularly respiratory diseases, should exercise caution. Based on studies published by Harvard University and the journal Cardiovascular Research, air pollution increases the risk of mortality and severe symptoms in COVID-19.

Another article published in Lung India, the official journal of the Indian Chest Society, the firecrackers in India produce high levels of particulate matter (PM), which are tiny particles or droplets of pollution in the air, usually visible after combustion, resulting in short- and potential long-term health effect. Children and the elderly with preexisting health conditions such as chronic lung disease or cardiovascular disease are more susceptible to these negative effects.

Here are a few simple suggestions to enjoy a joyful, safe, and healthy Diwali:

  • Avoid using Agarbati, candles, and diyas indoors to help reduce pollution. Sustainable LED lights can be used because they do not emit particulates while also providing illumination.
  • Allow proper ventilation by opening your doors and windows on a regular basis, allowing air to circulate throughout the house, keeping the environment fresh. Do not open the doors and windows in the evenings because of high pollution levels.
  • Don’t burn the leftover remains of crackers the next day as particulate materials and gases like nitrogen oxides and Sulphur dioxide are added to crackers to create brilliant colors and sparkle, as well as particulate matter and gases that linger in the atmosphere for hours, irritating our eyes and clogging our lungs.
  • We’ve all realized that wearing a mask can help stop the spread of the novel Coronavirus. So, if you want to avoid pollution and the Coronavirus, make sure to put on a good quality mask, preferably N95, N99, or N100 masks, which are highly effective at filtering out tiny particulate matter from the air, before leaving the house.
  • Invest in an air purifier if you have preexisting conditions, which will come in handy in removing particulate pollutants, toxins, and allergens, given the current situation and the poor air quality in several major cities.
  • People with preexisting respiratory conditions should always have their emergency medications, nebulizers, and other medical supplies on hand.
  • Right now, pollution levels are at an all-time high. So, rather than skipping your workout, opt for an indoor workout. It’s also a good idea to keep children’s outdoor activities to a minimum during this time. This is especially so for people with preexisting conditions.

Many cities are planning to go green this year, follow the government’s lead, and celebrate Diwali with sweets and lights rather than firecrackers this year. This is a good long way toward improving air quality and decreasing covid risk especially benefiting people with or at high risk of lung diseases.

(Authored by Dr Vivek Anand Padegal, Director in Pulmonary Disease, Fortis Hospital, Bannerghatta Road, Bangalore)

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