Seasonal Change Brings Health Woes, Sends More Smokers to Hospitals

Cases of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, a progressive lung disorder, have shot up in the city with fluctuating temperatures and increasing pollution levels.

Published: 27th January 2014 08:36 AM  |   Last Updated: 27th January 2014 08:53 AM   |  A+A-

Cases of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, a progressive lung disorder, have shot up in the city with fluctuating temperatures and increasing pollution levels.

The disease, also called COPD, is particularly harsh on smokers, asthmatics and people working in mines and factories exposing themselves to a large amount of dust. City-based pulmonologists are advising the vulnerable groups to be extra careful this season as the combination of varying temperatures and bouts of cold in the night can prove to be dangerous.

Dr Shashidhara Buggi, Director of Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Chest Diseases and SDS Tuberculosis Centre, said he has observed an increase in the number of people coming to him with asthma and bronchitis, both constituents of COPD, this season. “Almost 25 to 30 per cent of our patient load is people suffering from COPD and this has increased with time,” he said.

Pollution levels increase during temperature fluctuations and become a huge irritant to COPD patients, said Dr George D’Souza, Head, Department of Pulmonary Medicine, St John’s Medical College Hospital. “Smokers must cut down on smoking as temperature fluctuations aggravate COPD and people can easily pick up viral infections,” he said.

Since people spend a lot of time indoors during winter, viral infections spread easily. “We recommend that people take the flu vaccine early during September or October. Irritants inside the house include mosquito coils and incense sticks,” he said.

Research has shown that smoking cigarettes is the cause of 75 per cent of all COPD cases, and COPD can get twice as worse in winters. The reasons include increased time spent indoors, smoking (both active and passive), common cold and other viral infections and windy conditions.

Dr Buggi said the main reason is that viral and bacterial infections of the upper and lower respiratory tract spread very easily when temperatures are low and once a person is infected, it takes a very long time to heal.

Lung Capacity Drastically Dips 

Smokers, Dr Buggi said, are in greater trouble, as their pulmonary reserve, or the capacity of their lungs to retain oxygen, is very low. “Winter worsens the lung reserves and even when they are taking rest, it may lead to bronchospasm,” he said. “One bout of infection is enough to send them to hospitals.”  More: P4

A research paper titled ‘Prevalence of COPD in India: A Systematic Review’ published in the Primary Care Respiratory Journal gave a COPD prevalence of 6.5 to 7.7 per cent among rural people.

In Karnataka, the prevalence was found to be 71.9 per cent among men who smoke. The World Health Organisation estimates that 90 per cent of the world’s COPD deaths occur in low and middle-income countries, and India has around 30 million people living with the disease.

Dr Giridhara R Babu, associate professor of epidemiology at the Public Health Foundation of India, said lower respiratory tract infections like pneumonia and secondary infections caused by bacteria are common in winters.

He said aged people who smoke are particularly vulnerable and so are passive smokers, especially if a person smokes in a poorly ventilated house.


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