Physical and Mental Effects of Poor Air

Physical and Mental Effects of Poor Air

As the smog has descended on Delhiites (and a major chunk of North India too), discussing weather has acquired new dimensions now. Suddenly the words like Air Quality Index (AQI) and Particulate Matter (PM) sound oh-so-familiar. Its distressing to see all the environmentalists’ nightmares coming true. While the authorities play the blame game, we still have our life’s businesses to take care of. We have to go to work and the forced school holiday isn’t going to last forever.

Air pollution is not going to spare anyone and children and elderly are particularly vulnerable. The children especially, because their immunity and organs are still undergoing development. As a doctor and as a mother, I shudder at the long-term consequences of poor air quality. A prolonged exposure to pollutants affects both the physical and mental well-being of children. It slows the brain, retards its development and diminishes the reflexes. And then there is lung damage, chronic lung diseases and the potential carcinogenic (cancer inducing) effects to worry about too.

In our hospitals and labs, we use special masks which are called N95 respirators (95% of fine particles including PM2.5 are effectively blocked, hence the name). To give you a perspective, the ordinary masks or the cloth masks in comparison block only 28% of fine particles. So, if the AQI is high, say 400, then 95% efficacy brings the toxic level down to 0.04% which is safe.

There is a huge variety to cater to the growing need. Look for certification on N95 grading (Europe and USA both have their certification standards. Both are equally effective). These masks are uncomfortable so prefer one with foam lining and softer straps to lessen the agony. Look for an exhalation valve as it helps in breathing, decreases heat build-up, removes CO2 and prevents fogging of eyeglasses. They come in different sizes, including smaller ones for children, so select one that fits well as it is of utmost importance.

  •         Use Air purifiers and humidifiers. Air purifiers have HEPA filters which sieve out the particulate matter. Some have inbuilt humidifiers in them which help especially when the air is dry.
  •         AQI monitoring apps.  A lot of them have cropped up. Download one and plan your outdoor activities accordingly. This is especially handy for people like my husband who love to run and cycle for exercise. Either exercise indoors or juggle the schedule when the AQI is in safe limits. A word of caution, the actual AQI level would be higher than what the app displays because you will be on the road close to vehicles and other sources of pollution.
  •         Reparative foods. Vitamin C has a proven efficacy in respiratory illnesses and wear tear of tissues. Take lemon shots and consume more citrus fruits. A protein rich diet also helps build immunity. A fistful of nuts (especially cashew nuts and walnuts) and seeds act like superfoods. A concoction made by boiling tulsi (basil), ginger, carrom seeds (ajwain), cinnamon, black pepper etc in water, soothes local irritation and is also an immunity booster. Include a bit of jaggery (gur) in diet as it literally mops up the harmful toxins.

Though I am a doctor by profession, I have always had faith in the old wives’ tales. A sensible mix of both is the way forward for me. All this is practical, doable stuff with no adverse effects whatsoever. I always say whatever works, works! Let me know what works for you!!

First Published –

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: