Delhi: As cold bites, hospitals see spurt in admissions

The cocktail of pollution and extremely cold weather condition prevailing in the capital is leaving many people sick. Hospitals say they are flooded with patients suffering from cold, cough, sore throat, fever and exacerbation of respiratory illnesses.
 
NEW DELHI: The cocktail of pollution and extremely cold weather condition prevailing in the capital is leaving many people sick. Hospitals say they are flooded with patients suffering from cold, cough, sore throat, fever and exacerbation of respiratory illnesses. Swine flu cases are also being reported.

“We are getting 30 to 40 patients daily who suffer from symptoms that are directly related to cold and pollution. Nearly 10% of these require admission because the symptoms do not subside despite medication,” said Dr Vivek Nangia, who heads the pulmonology unit of Fortis, Vasant Kunj. He added that most patients are elderly people or children.

At Sir Ganga Ram hospital (SGRH), doctors say that admissions due to pneumonia and worsening of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease have gone up significantly.

“Due to high pollution levels, allergies and other health complications are taking longer to subside. And in some cases admission is needed to stabilise the patient,” said Dr Atul Gogia, senior consultant, internal medicine at SGRH. He added that people should avoid outdoor activities on days when pollution levels are higher. “People should totally avoid early morning walks. Influenza and pneumococcal vaccination is advised for those predisposed to infections,” said another doctor.

Since children breathe more every minute than adults, they take in a proportionately greater volume of air, thus increasing their vulnerability. As a global report pointed out, “Irritation caused by pollutants that would produce only a slight response in an adult can result in potentially significant obstruction in the still-developing airways of a child.”

Exposure to cold causes constriction of airways due to which less air reaches the lungs. The problem aggravates when polluted air goes in, which causes irritation and inflammation of the airways. New research shows PM2.5 tends to spill over to the bloodstream as well, causing narrowing of the blood vessels that could lead to heart attack or stroke, say experts.

Chronic exposure to high-level pollutants is regarded as big a risk factor for heart attack and stroke as high cholesterol and smoking. Patients at both extremes of age are vulnerable due to weaker immunity.
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