Doctors in the national capital have advised residents to avoid stepping out or indulging in outdoor activities during the early morning and evening hours in view of “severe” levels of air pollution in the city.
AIIMS Director Dr Randeep Guleria, a renowned pulmonologist, termed the situation a “public health emergency” and stressed the need for initiating a movement to protect the environment.
He advised the elderly, children and patients with respiratory and cardiac problems to avoid strenuous activity, which leads to inhalation of greater volumes of minute pollutants, early in the morning or late in the evening.
“Pollutants get trapped closer to the ground when the temperature is low and there being no wind, it is in its peak, especially in the early morning and late evening hours.
“It is better to go out when it’s bright and sunny,” he said.
Associate Professor of pulmonary medicine at AIIMS Dr Karan Madan said lungs of the elderly and children are less capable of handling such high levels of pollutants and thus they develop breathing difficulty.
“And, it is not just limited to lungs. It can also affect the cardiovascular system and the brain,” he said.
Professor and head of pulmonary medicine at Safdarjang Hospital Dr J C Suri said inhalation of air toxins causes infections and swelling of the airway.
“The immediate effects are cough, throat infections, and pneumonia, but one can also develop lung cancer,” the doctor said.
“Also, when pollution levels rise, the condition of those suffering from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) or asthama worsens,” he said.
Meanwhile, a number of schools in Delhi suspended outdoor activities and advised parents to ensure their children wear masks.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also asked his deputy Manish Sisodia to consider shutting schools for a few days after the air quality dropped to the “severe” category on the air quality index in Delhi.
Dr Guleria said there is not enough data on the efficacy of masks and stressed the need for initiating a movement to protect the environment.
“Masks are not very helpful as a lot of air can get inside from the sides. Also, they are tightly sealed and children and eldery find them very uncomfortable to use.
He suggested implementing long-term measures and said the use of nasal filters or air purifiers can provide short-term relief only.