Practical tips to protect yourself from air pollution, dust, smog

Dust storm and the worsening air pollution in Delhi can leave you with a number of health problems. Here’s what you should do to shield yourself from air pollution. Read on to know how you can avoid the harmful effects of air pollution.

A thick haze has currently enveloped Delhi and nearby areas, with levels of PM10, a measure of pollution, being eight times the permissible limit. The air quality is ‘severely bad’ and it could spell disaster for your respiratory health.

Dr Arvind Kumar, director, Institute of Robotic surgery and chairman, center for chest surgery & lung transplantation at Sir Gangaram Hospital, New Delhi, says, “Exposure to pollution over longer period of time is also one of the reasons for developing lung cancer.

It is one of the most commonly diagnosed form of cancer, in India effecting around 63,000 people every year. The particles present in the air that we are breathing will definitely go inside and harm us.”

Ways to shield yourself from air pollution:

* One of the easiest precautions we can take to reduce the impact is to wear a N95 grade mask, which fits snugly around the mouth and nose, so that all air passes through the mask. A basic surgical mask actually offers no protection against air-pollutants and microbes.

* Also quit indoor smoking, which is a big cause of indoor air pollution.

* To avoid indoor air pollution, say yes to potted plants. Surround your home with areca palm, rubber plant and peace lilies.

* If you feel any irritation in your throat, boil half a teaspoon of turmeric in water. Add a teaspoon of honey and drink the concoction in the morning.

* Adopt a Mediterranean diet. It’s low in meat and dairy but rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, beans, nuts and ‘healthy’ fats. A study by the New York University School of Medicine in the US earlier this year shows that following a Mediterranean diet may protect people from some of the harms of air pollution, and reduce their risk of dying from heart attacks and stroke.

If you have asthma, follow these precautions:

“Asthma patients should take regular doses of inhaled steroids. It has completely changed the lives of people with asthma. If you have persistent wheezing, don’t forget to take your steroid inhaler with you and keep it on in the regular dose”.

“There are a small percentage of patients who don’t need a regular inhaler. Keep your inhaler handy, so that if you feel uncomfortable, you can immediately take a dose,” says Dr Sujeet Rajan, chest physician, Bhatia Hospital, Mumbai.

If you’re hesitant about taking inhaled steroids, like a lot of people are, rest easy. Dr Rajan assures that it’s completely safe. In fact, he adds, they are safe for pregnant women, young children and are also taken by Olympic athletes.

“If you suffer a sever attack because of a dust storm, you can take an emergency dose of prednisolone – an oral steroid. New guidelines suggest that every asthmatic patient should keep it nearby, even if you have mild asthma,” he adds.