Breathe easy!

September 05, 2008

Air pollution can set off an asthma attack
Allergies are progressing in variety and number as days pass on. The allergies and associated medical conditions like asthma and rhinitis are ever on the increase. Changed patterns in the field of agriculture and climatic changes are the worsening factors of most of the allergies.

Usually, allergies are seen as a crime committed by the helpless pollinating plants. But experts shirk off this factor as the only factor responsible for the increasing number of allergy patients. They point out to the the high levels of diesel fumes and ozone together corrupt breathing air. The nitrogen oxide emitted by the vehicles and industries combine with volatile organic compounds released by gasoline pumps or chemical plants to form ground-level ozone. Ozone layer is only friendly when it is high up above the earth’s surface.

Air pollutions affects everyone though it has a very bad impact on the health of children and elders. Polluted air often is one of the causes for respiratory problems like asthma. In a polluted environment like that of an urban area, people tend to develop asthma even if they have not been asthmatic. In asthmatic patients, air pollution can often flare-up an asthma attack.

The air around you is probably polluted and unhealthy if you have

  • Difficulty in breathing or shortness of breath
  • A tightness in the chest
  • Frequent cough
  • Wheezing
  • Fatigue
  • Eye irritations
  • And nasal congestion

The major air pollutants are

  • Ground Level Ozone
  • Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) produced by the burning of coal and crude oil
  • Nitrogen oxide (NOx)
  • Smoke (tobacco)
  • Wood fires or charcoal grills
  • Tiny particles in the air like dust, soot, diesel exhaust particles and sulfate aerosols.

Asthma is mostly seen in crowded living conditions with a highly contaminated environment prone to infections. Asthmatic people are at a great risk in such conditions as they are sensitive to changes. Asthma is chronic and has no real cure. An episode of asthma or an attack occurs when the condition is worsened than usual.

In asthmatic patients, the inside walls of the airways are inflamed or swollen. In a contaminated environment the lung function will be reduced by the inflaming lining of the lungs leading to an asthma attack. The muscles around the airways also tighten up and the airways constrict allowing less of air passage. The excess of mucus produced narrows the airway further . Air pollution also increase the risk of upper respiratory infections which ultimately worsen asthma symptoms.

Asthma can be triggered off by many factors and air pollution is just one of them. The other factors include:

  • Changes in the weather especially cold weather
  • Respiratory infections
  • Allergens like dust or mite
  • Exercise or such stressful activities
  • Strong odors from items sprays, paint, gasoline etc.

Ayurveda provides a variety of home remedies and medicines to treat asthma. But asthma can be medical emergency if not taken care of.

Let’s watch out for quality air and breathe easy!

-Aparna K V

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