‘Stay Home’ Syndrome Returns As Cold-Covid Leaves Kashmir ‘Breathless’

The already existing breathless situation has increased this winter as people with underlying health conditions now have to take Covid precautions alongside their own precautions.

By Tabia Masoodi

LYING on a hospital bed in the SMHS triage ward, Sahil Gulzar, 24, from Pattan, Baramulla is breathing with the artificial air of an oxygen cylinder.

Sahil has a ventricular septal defect (a hole in his heart). With this life-threatening condition, his daily life gets paralysed during winter.

As winter comes with the baggage of viral flu stretching from the common cold to increasing the risk of Covid nowadays, breathing problems get more aggravated in the valley.

The great dip in his oxygen levels leaves Sahil to survive on artificial support frequently for more than three months every year.

“Summertime is far better than winters,” said his sister, sitting beside him. “His condition is stable. But winter is hard for the whole family.”

Doctors have ruled out surgery for him and have strictly advised Sahil to avoid going out during winters.

With Sahil’s already serious situation, Covid was an add on, due to which he has to stay indoors through the year.

Not only Sahil but there’re thousands of people in the valley for whom winter is bad news. One among them is Saima Shah, an asthmatic patient from Srinagar.

Saima has been diagnosed with asthma four years back, which for her was not sudden as it is an inherited disease.

“My mother has been an asthmatic patient and my father also has breathing issues,” says Saima.

For asthma sufferers, winters have always proven to be the worst period of the year. And Saima has been a first-hand witness of it as she has seen her mother suffering more during the cold season due to asthma since childhood.

But now the scenario has changed as she, no longer, is a witness but herself a sufferer.

“In winter my condition gets deteriorated due to the shifts in the weather as it irritates my airways,” expressed Saima.

She’s on medication and has been taking proper precautions. Earlier she used to take inhalers. She believes that if proper precautions are taken, a patient to some extent can be stable during winters. “Also, me and my whole family every year take flu shots as recommended by our doctor,” said Saima.

Apart from all other precautions, taking flu shots is a vital part of the survival game. “For patients with lung-related diseases flu shots are a must. It’s an extra layer of protection for them,” said Dr. Suraya A. Farooq, Associate professor, GMC Srinagar.

But now, for patients like Saima and her mother, Covid-19 has proven to be the last straw.

“Covid-19 situation has increased our fears a lot,” expressed Saima’s mother. “We’ve taken precautions more than needed, but the constant fear is always lingering in our lives.”

Dr. Suraya added that patients who have suffered from Covid-19 earlier are at a high risk of getting post-Covid fibrosis. For which she suggested such patients mostly stay indoors.

The already distressing situation has increased due to the Covid scenario. People with underlying conditions now have to take Covid precautions alongside their own precautions. One such person is Rabia, a tachycardia (fast heart rate) patient.

Rabia suffers from breathing problems throughout the year, but her problems increase to a great extent during winters.

“I have already been suffering from breathing issues and now wearing masks is an add on. It gets suffocating to wear a mask but one can’t help it,” says Rabia.

Winters have never been Rabia’s favourite seasons, as her survival is much problematic. Shortness of breath and chest pain are some of the gifts of winter for her. “I do suffer in summer but my condition gets worse during winters, with constant chest pain. It becomes challenging for me to go out in the winter season,” expressed Rabia.

There is a high-risk factor during winters, especially patients having underlying conditions like diabetes, hypertension, etc, said Dr. Salis, a resident at SMHS hospital. “There’s always a risk of high infections during winters.”

Even cardiac patients face breathlessness, Dr. Salis said, as conditions related to heart have a direct effect on breathing issues.

The high factor of catching the viral infection has its psychological implications on patients.

“I believe one’s condition can get deteriorated due to psychological impact. I have seen my mother having an asthma attack which can lead to a panic attack if she is not given an inhaler shot,” expressed Saima.

Moreover, sometimes, Saima’s mother doesn’t overcome the asthma attack till she gets a proper doctor’s checkup.

“During summer my mother sometimes doesn’t even remember she is asthmatic, but with the onset of winter her complaints about breathlessness increases a lot,” said Saima.

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