Air pollutants trigger allergic cough in urban Indian population

It is imperative to take precautionary measures right before the winter season starts

Living in India and inhaling lungful of polluted air every day is like being a chronic smoker according to a recent report by India’s State-Level Disease Burden Initiative. This partly explains why many people in urban India have a persistent dry and hacking cough even if they don’t have asthma or have never smoked.

Allergic cough is more common in the winter months when drop in temperature prevents air pollutants and allergens from dissipating, trapping them close to the ground in toxic concentrations to trigger asthma, allergic rhinitis, and other allergic disorders. Sudden change in temperature and cold, dry air also makes airways constrict, triggering bouts of annoying coughing that does not constrict breathing, like asthma.

Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee, Dr KK Aggarwal, President, HCFI, said:

Some triggers for the allergic cough that a majority of the urban population in cities such as Delhi is experiencing is air pollutants such as ozone and nitrogen dioxide. The other factors include road and construction dust, pollen, smoke, damp, chalk dust to sudden change in temperature. Dryness and itchiness in the throat can last from weeks to months and vary in intensity. Some other seasonal allergies include runny nose, bouts of sneezing, watery and itchy eyes, and dark circles under the eyes. These dark circles, called allergic shiners, are caused by the pooling of blood under the eyes because of swollen tissue in the nasal cavities. Allergic cough usually becomes intense at night.”

Infections, both viral and bacterial, can lead to complications in people with underlying health conditions such as lung or kidney disease, heart failure, chronic obstructive lung disease or asthma, so a visit to a doctor is a must if high fever lasts for more than two days.

Adding further, Dr Aggarwal, who is also the Group Editor-in-Chief of IJCP, said:

With many viruses, there are no known treatments. Your doctor may prescribe medications to manage your symptoms while monitoring your condition. If your doctor suspects a bacterial infection, they may prescribe antibiotics. Getting the MMR and pertussis vaccine can substantially lower your risk of getting a respiratory infection. Other than that, one should also practice good hygiene.”

Some tips from HCFI

· Wash your hands frequently, especially after you’ve been in a public place.

· Always sneeze into the arm of your shirt or in a tissue. Although this may not ease your own symptoms, it will prevent you from spreading infectious diseases.

· Avoid touching your face, especially your eyes and mouth, to prevent introducing germs into your system.

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