Asikkumar Banerjee (MeraNews, Ahmedabad): The rise in air pollution during Diwali poses a health risk to all, but most vulnerable are young children, say doctors, who warn of an increase in respiratory and bronchial problems as well as asthma cases during this period.

“Every year I see a 25 percent increase in the number of children with respiratory problems during and after Diwali,” said Dr Sagar Patel, a paediatrician at Orange Neonatal and Intensive Care Unit. “Due to the smoke from firecrackers, breathing difficulties are seen in children. As Diwali falls during the onset of winter, allergy and asthma attacks increase and the pollution because of Diwali becomes an add-on factor that precipitates asthma attacks.”

The pollution from the bursting of fireworks also has a severe effect on children’s eyes, said Dr Ashok Patel, a paediatrician at Mamta Children Hospital. “Burn injuries are also seen among children. Every year I get a minimum of four-five cases of children with burn injuries. As safety precautions, crackers should be burst in open spaces and the use of crackers that emit less fumes should be promoted.”

In particular danger are infants.

Dr Ankit Mehta of the paediatric critical care unit of Zydus Hospital said the pollution creates an unfamiliar environment for the lungs of babies and that there is an increased risk of children below the age of one developing asthma.

“There are chances that babies who already have asthma may develop their episode of reactive airway disease... Other than the lungs, which are part of the lower respiratory system, there is also an effect on the upper respiratory tract that includes the nose and nasopharynx, where we see an increase in the number of cases of allergic pharyngitis. Every year during Diwali, there is an increase of 1.5-2 times in the number of children who are admitted in the critical care unit because of asthma,” said Dr Mehta.

All three doctors cited above recommended the use of fireworks that emit less smoke.

In addition, Dr Mehta has a warning about the food and sweets being eaten during Diwali: “Sometimes the foods that we eat during Diwali have colouring agents in them and also additives, which increase the chances of asthma in children.”

Dr Chintan Trivedi, a paediatrician, said the tradition on houses being cleaned before Diwali is also a concern. “The dust also adversely affects children. I see an increase of around 50 percent in the number of cases of respiratory problems during Diwali.”

“Diwali comes during the onset of Diwali, when the air settles down and so does the smoke. So that has an adverse effect on the health of children,” he said, adding, “Crackers like taramandal, which are normally given to children, emit more smoke. Since they are held close to the nose, children with allergic bronchitis and asthma face more problems.”

Not just the young

 

Middle-aged people and the elderly are not immune to the effects of the spike in air pollution during Diwali.

“Due to the pollution during Diwali, old people may develop coronary artery disease, myocardial infarction and high blood pressure,” said Dr Jayesh Trivedi, president of the Association of Physicians of Ahmedabad. “Paediatric patients may develop respiratory tract infections and infants are more at risk because of the increase in sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide.”

Middle-aged people may develop hypertension and cancer, says Dr Trivedi. “Every year, during and after Diwali, there is a 10-15 percent increase in respiratory problems in paediatric and old patients, and an 8-10 percent increase in middle-aged people.”

Dr Trivedi and Dr Bharat Gadhvi, chief executive officer (CEO) of HCG Medi-Surge Hospital, both said people with diseases such as diabetes, cancer, HIV are more at risk because of their weakened immune systems.

“There is also an effect on the foetus in the womb of the mother because of less oxygen in the atmosphere,” said Dr Gadhvi.

Dr G.R. Badlani, secretary at the Associations of Physicians of Ahmedabad, is in favour of a ban on fireworks. “Like the ban that has been implemented in Delhi-NCR (National Capital Region), there should be restrictions all over the country.”

 



   "The pollution creates an unfamiliar environment for the lungs of babies and that there is an increased risk of children below the age of one developing asthma. There are chances that babies who already have asthma may develop their episode of reactive airway disease... Other than the lungs, which are part of the lower respiratory system, there is also an effect on the upper respiratory tract that includes the nose and nasopharynx, where we see an increase in the number of cases of allergic pharyngitis." — Dr Ankit Mehta, Zydus Hospital

 

  
   “Due to the pollution during Diwali, old people may develop coronary artery disease, myocardial infarction and high blood pressure. Paediatric patients may develop respiratory tract infections and infants are more at risk because of the increase in sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide.” — Dr Jayesh Trivedi, president, Association of Physicians of Ahmedabad

 

 





      "People with diseases like diabetes, cancer, HIV are more at risk because their immunity is less. There is also an effect on the foetus in the womb of the mother because of less oxygen in the atmosphere." — Dr Bharat Gadhvi, CEO, HCG Medi-Surge Hospital