With pollution level continuing in the 'severe' category in Delhi, doctors on Wednesday advised people to take a lot of precautions, including wearing face masks and avoiding early morning and late evening walks as concentration of pollutants is highest during this period.
According to the Central Pollution Control Board, the air quantity index was recorded at 416 at 11 am.
"Intake of every 22 micrograms per cubic metre of polluted air is equivalent to smoking a cigarette. So, whether the PM2.5 level is 700 or 300 units, the impact is still as bad. People need to take precautions, especially those suffering from asthma, bronchitis or other respiratory illness," said Dr Arvind Kumar, lung surgeon at the Sir Ganga Ram Hospital here.
Doctors at other hospitals also prescribed dos and don'ts with pollution levels continuing to be in the 'severe' category on Wednesday as a blanket of smog wrapped Delhi.
Shiv Kumar Pandey, an autorickshaw driver, said, the worsening pollution level makes it difficult to drive through the streets, as bad air causes irritation in eyes and skin. Dr Vikas Maurya, head of the department of pulmonology and sleep disorder at Fortis Hospital, Shalimar Bagh, said air pollution levels can cause various immediate health problems other than respiratory problems.
"It can damage cells in the respiratory system, and cause diseases such as bronchitis, emphysema, and perhaps cancer. Extra stress on the lungs and heart leads to herded work to supply the body with oxygen causing faster aging of the lungs," he said.
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People should ensure that indoor air pollution does not take place and there is a chimney in kitchen and an exhaust system in bathroom. Doctors have asked people to take more precautions and avoid early morning and late evening walks as concentration of pollutants is highest during this period.
Schools should avoid outdoor assemblies, sports activities and other physical activities in the early morning hours, they said.
Dr Vijay Dutt of internal medicine at the Indian Spinal Injuries Centre, said post Diwali, Delhi's air becomes more hazardous to inhale and the pollutants will harm everyone, but most vulnerable are asthma patients, pregnant women, the elderly and children.
"Some of the precautionary methods would be to wear a mask while going outside and the right mask needs to be worn. I would advice to avoid surgical and comfort masks as it don't allow proper respiratory protection. A respirator that is rated N95/N99/FFP3 or is 'NIOSH Approved' that filters out more, should be used," he said.
He also advised people to avoid cardio exercises as "cardio workouts increase the chances of respiratory ailments" as the body needs more oxygen during that time, he said.
"Keeping the body hydrated is the foremost thing in these times, and drinking more water would be advisable. One could also consume vegetables juice and fruit juice," the doctor said.
He also advised to keep allergy kit ready with required medicines, inhalers and nebulisers, if any family member has a respiratory illness.
"Exposure to bad air quality may lead to initial symptoms like coughing, irritation in eyes and nose, sore throat, asthma or wheezing, and tiredness. But prolonged exposure may have serious consequences on health causing stroke, ischemic heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and even lung cancer. A doctor should immediately be consulted if these symptoms persist," the doctor said.