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Delhi seeing rise in COPD and asthma cases as air pollution spikes: Tips to stay safe

Poor air quality can harm your lungs, which in turn can increase the chances of developing complications like pneumonia during COVID-19.

Wearing a face mask is the most effective way to stay safe from COVID-19 as well as air pollution this winter, say doctors.

With the onset of winter and stubble burning in the surrounding states, the national capital is witnessing a sharp increase in air pollution. As the air turns foul, doctors have raised concerns over the increasing cases of respiratory ailments like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma.

As reported by IANS, Delhi's 24-hour average air quality index (AQI) stood at 249, which falls in the 'poor' category. The System of Air Quality Weather Forecasting and Research categorises air quality in the 0-50 range as good, 51-100 as satisfactory, 101-200 as moderate, 201-300 as poor, 301-400 as very poor and above 400 as severe.

Poor air quality can harm your lungs, which in turn can increase the chances of developing complications like pneumonia during COVID-19. Therefore, doctors have urged people to eat healthy, exercise and strictly follow COVID-19 precautions like social distancing, wearing masks and hand hygiene to prevent the viral infection.

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Studies have also warned that the pandemic will worsen in winters as the virus can survive longer in lower temperatures. In fact, the Disaster Management has estimated that Delhi will see 15,000 COVID-19 cases per day in winters.

Experts recommend getting pneumonia and flu vaccine

Dr. Arunesh Kumar, senior consultant and head of respiratory medicine and pulmonology in the Paras Hospital, told IANS that they are seeing a surge in patients with worsening chest symptoms coming to the pulmonology OPD.

COVID-19 patients with compromised or weak lungs are more likely to develop complications like pneumonia. So, Dr. Kumar recommends getting pneumonia and flu vaccine this winter.

Earlier WHO senior adviser Bruce Aylward and epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove have also stressed the importance of anti-flu vaccinations amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. They believe that getting vaccinated against the flu may also offer some protection against severe COVID-19 infection and avert hospital crisis.

A recent study from the University of Connecticut in the US had also highlighted the importance of influenza and pneumonia vaccinations to prevent respiratory infections amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The researchers, including one of Indian-origin, said that influenza and pneumonia vaccinations may reduce hospital deaths in patients with heart failure.

How to keep yourself safe from Covid-19 and pollution

According to Dr. Kumar, wearing a face mask is the best way to stay safe from COVID-19 as well as air pollution this winter. He also advises people to avoid strenuous outdoor exercise during peak pollution hours.

Shuchin Bajaj, Internal Medicines specialist at Ujala Cygnus Group of Hospitals, urged people to take care of 'SMS' -- social distancing, mask and sanitisation more so in the coming days.

Eat healthy and avoid oily & fatty foods as these can create additional levels of stress in your body which is already dealing with the harmful effects of smog.

Invest in a good quality air purifier and make sure you clean it on a regular basis.

Avoid stepping out as much as you can to reduce exposure to the pollution as well as the COVID-19 virus. If you feel the need to venture out, make sure you put on a good quality face mask that completely covers your mouth and nose.

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