Winter Woes: Pollution, Post-Covid Effect Escalating Panting In Kashmir

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Srinagar- With the onset of winter, the hospitals in the valley are witnessing a huge rush of patients with respiratory ailments, especially chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

COPD which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema, is a long-term lung disease that makes it hard to breathe.

Sources told Kashmir Observer that the patient flow is showing “increase manifold” this winter with hundreds of patents visit to Government Chest Disease (CD) Hospital, JVC Bemina, Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS), State Hospital (SMHS) and other tertiary care hospitals for treatment.

An official from the CD hospital told Kashmir Observer that the flow of patients in OutPatient Department (OPD) remains 200-300 per day.

“But we are expecting more patients, especially elderly and covid-19 hit patients in coming months,” Dr. Saleem Tak, Medical Superintendent, CD Hospital told Kashmir Observer.

At the same time, the medical experts and leading pulmonologists observe that post COVID-19 the situation of these patients have become severe and more people land up in the hospitals.

“…The frequency of these patients who had contracted covid-19 earlier have risen since the winter is approaching. They are facing post-covid respiratory issues,” Dr Syed Mudasir Qadri, Prof. SKIMS Pulmonary and Internal Medicine Consultant.

Dr. Qadri further said patients suffer from a syndrome known as post—viral bronchial hyperreactivity and they have to put those patients on inhalers. All the patients, Dr. Qadri said, need to go for an influenza vaccination.

He further maintained that the mucus membranes become dry in dry weather as a result they become vulnerable to infection “that is why you witness a lot of respiratory issues during winters,” he added.

Every year, during winters, a large number of Asthma patients from Kashmir travel to places like Jammu, Delhi and Mumbai to escape the bone-chilling cold.

“My father, who is a fibrosis patient, was advised by the Doctors at SKIMS to shift to Jammu for winter. So we came to Jammu for his safety,” said Mohammad Umar, a resident of Dalgate, Srinagar.

Asthma is a chronic condition which can flare up when sufferers are exposed to their “triggers”. Common ones are pollen, chemicals, dust  smoke, or viruses.

Dr. Saleem Tak, said that a number of post COVID-19 patients are suffering from Fibrosis which affects the functioning of the lungs.

“The winter and the pollution has aggravated the situation for those patients. We are expecting more footfall of these patients in coming months,” Dr. Tak who is the head of only Chest Disease hospital in the valley told Kashmir Observer.

Medical Superintendent at JVC Hospital, Dr Shifa Deva told Kashmir Observer that the hospital has kept the separate beds for those patients and are fully prepared  to tackle any issue.

It may be noted that Jammu and Kashmir, is among the four Indian states with the highest prevalence of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), according to a study.

The report, titled as “burden of chronic respiratory diseases and their heterogeneity across the states of India: the global burden of disease study 1990–2016” was published in Lancet in 2018.

It revealed that in UT over 4750 people per lakh population suffer from COPD. The number is much higher given the socio-demographic index (SDI) of the UT.

The experts advised people to take the necessary precautions during the winters so that they can save themselves from respiratory ailments.

Dr. Tak said that the people with COPD and Asthma should cover them well with woolens and avoid coming out of their houses during morning and evening.

“Since the temperature is down during the hours, they should avoid coming out of these homes,” Dr. Tak said adding that “timely flu vaccination will help them to tackle the respiratory issues,”

He said people shouldn’t sit in overcrowded rooms and there should be a proper ventilation system in the room.

“People should prefer a protein-rich diet. The drinking water should be boiled and people should avoid firepots,” Dr. Tak added.

The pulmonologists maintain that the use of steroid inhalers for asthma patients had gone up in the valley post covid-19.

Doctors Association Kashmir (DAK) President Dr Nisar ul Hassan argues that the COPD is a chronic disease and during the dry weather they thrive-up.

He said that freezing weather depresses the immune system and thus a person becomes prone to respiratory infection.

Dr. Hassan further maintained that COVID-19 patients are more vulnerable to other infections and the freezing weather depresses the immune system of these patients and thus a person becomes prone to respiratory infection.

“These patients are more vulnerable to other infections. So the severity is more, “Dr. Hassan added.

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Auqib Javeed

Auqib Javeed is special correspondent with Kashmir Observer and tweets @AuqibJaveed

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