Pedestrians walk past the India Gate monument shrouded in smog in New Delhi.
People walk past the India Gate monument shrouded in smog in New Delhi. | Photo: Anindito Mukherjee | Bloomberg File Photo
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New Delhi: Cases of respiratory illnesses such as cough, breathlessness, wheezing, chest discomfort have increased after Diwali, but not as much compared to last year.  

Though air quality in Delhi plummeted to season’s worst on the morning of Diwali, it was still better than the last three years, data from the government’s air quality monitors show.

Health experts said cases related to worsening of respiratory diseases such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) have reduced by half this year compared to last Diwali. 

“As per initial assessment, the cases have fallen by at least 50 per cent against the cases last year,” Dr Ujjwal Parakh, senior consultant, Department of Respiratory Medicine, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, told ThePrint.

“There is a direct relationship between increase in air pollution after Diwali and incidence of worsening of the symptoms of patients suffering from respiratory diseases. This phenomenon repeats itself year after year. However, my initial assessment is that the lesser number of patients have so far reported to emergency department and OPDs,” he added.

Dr Navneet Sood, pulmonology consultant at Dharamshila Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, agreed. 

“The cases, on the first day after Diwali, were certainly less than the previous years. They were up by 25 per cent against a usual OPD, but lesser than the cases, which come up on the next morning of Diwali,” he said.

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Giving details of the cases, Sood said three-fourth of the cases were related to worsening of asthma and COPD. “Rest one fourth of the cases were for bronchitis.” 

Dr Karan Madan of All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), however, said the number of cases is similar to last year.

“Till now, the numbers are similar to last year’s Diwali. There is no phenomenal spike as of now, nor a fall,” said Madan, who is an assistant professor of pulmonary medicine at AIIMS.

Also read: Diwali crackers leave Delhi-NCR gasping as air quality drops to season’s worst: CSE report

Dip in number of patients across India

Several doctors pointed out a similar trend across India. 

Dr Srivatsa Lokeshwaran, consultant, interventional pulmonology at Bengaluru-based Aster CMI Hospital, said, “Usually there is a spike in pulmonary cases during and post-Diwali. However, this year in Bengaluru, there has been a relative decrease in the number of cases as opposed to last year,” he said.

“This is a positive trend and two reasons could be attributed to this — one is that the rain in the city curtailed more bursting of crackers and simultaneously, people have also been moving towards more eco-friendly methods of celebrating Diwali,” Lokeshwaran added.

Kolkata also reported a fall in the number of cases of post-Diwali respiratory illnesses.

“There was no unusual increase in the number of patients reporting illness post-Diwali. We usually get eight patients (on an average) everyday complaining of pulmonary disorders. The number more or less remained the same this year,” said Dr Sanjukta Dutta, head of department, emergency medicine, at Fortis Hospital, Anandapur.  

Cases could rise in coming days

Health experts said numbers of respiratory illness cases could go up in the coming days. 

“The number of patients may keep increasing within this and next week because the pollution levels are likely to remain high,” warned AIIMS professor Madan. 

Doctors have asked people to use nebulisers, immunity boosters, anti-allergic medicines and high-quality face masks to tackle air pollution.

“Use of nebulisers and steroid-based inhalers is also recommended to those who have a history of breathing illness. We will advise people to stay inside during cloudy days and increase the intake of immunity-boosting food,” said Dr Avi Kumar, pulmonologist, Fortis Escorts and Heart Institute, Okhla.

Also read: Air pollution in cities like Delhi linked to children’s cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s, death


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