When the little son of a close friend landed into status asthmaticus (a severe condition in which asthma attacks follow one another without pause) and the mother of another friend developed pneumonia, their hospital admission and the grief that followed was something that brought me face to face with the pollution scare and the havoc it could cause on us. It filled me with despair as to what sort of a place are we leaving for our kids. Surely not the one we inherited.
The two people I mentioned above were the more vulnerable ones who came down heavily than others. But even for the rest of us who are inhaling the same polluted air, we cannot fool ourselves. Remember how cigarette smoking was compared to inhaling the exhaust from a car to discourage us from smoking. Today we are literally inhaling that same exhaust! The long-term effects of a prolonged exposure to such pollutants are worrisome. It may start off as skin rashes, trouble in breathing and difficulty in sleeping. We are also looking at heart disease, lung damage,chronic lung diseases and the potential carcinogenic (cancer-inducing)effects of pollutants on the lungs, as definite possibilities. It slows the brain, retards its development and diminishes the reflexes.
(Source: https://profiles.nlm.nih.gov/ps/access/NNBDCF.pdf )
With so much on the plate to worry about, we have to take effective measures and take them NOW.
Understand the terms PM and AQI
PM or Particulate Matter refers to the particles that are suspended in the air. AQI or Air Quality Index is a number to convey how polluted the air is or as a forecast to how polluted it could become. It takes into consideration PM and other obnoxious gases so is a more comprehensive indicator. 0-50 AQI would be ideal but 51-100 is still satisfactory. 401-500 is considered very poor but why am I boring you with these statistics. Because you need to know that AQI in most parts of our country is way, way above these numbers (as high as 999 has been recorded)!
Desperate situations require desperate measures. I had never envisioned that. I would be talking about the masks I use in my lab and hospital, for routine use.
● These are special masks called the N95 respirators (95% of fine particles including PM2.5 are effectively blocked, giving it that name).
● Cloth masks or the other ordinary masks block only 28% of fine particles. So, if the AQI is high, say 400, then 95% efficacy brings the toxic level down to a safe level 0.04% which is safe.
● While purchasing, apart from cost-effectiveness look for N95grading certification (Both USA and European certification standards are good enough).
● The fit of these masks is extremely essential so look for the sizes that work for all of you in the family. And since they are a tight snug fit, they are uncomfortable.
● Choose ones that have some soft lining and comfortable straps. Some even have an exhalation valve. That makes breathing easier and removes CO2 and prevents accumulation of heat.
Masks are effective when outdoors but to contain the damage, we need something for the indoors as well. That’s where air purifiers come into the picture. Air purifiers have various filters to sieve out particles from the air.
● Apart from HEPA filters also look out for those that also have ‘pre-filters’. They effectively remove larger particles like hair and dander that is something we find in indoor air.
● Also, in a country like India, they are much needed because of the heavy particles suspended in the air.
● Ensure they are easy to remove and replace.
● Take into consideration, the area that they are effective in. Larger rooms may require more than one purifier.
● They should not be noisy since they are going to be switched on for the time you are indoor. Some have a sleep mode which is even less noisy to ensure it lets you sleep in peace. For a largely dry country like India, an inbuilt humidifier is a thoughtful option.
The information is available online. Some air purifiers also carry it in their digital display and there are many apps as well. The idea is to avoid going out, as far as possible, when the AQI is especially high. People who run and cycle outdoors and children find it the most difficult and I don’t blame them. But work your way around it, that’s all I can say.
Consuming foods that are rich in Vitamin C prove to be beneficial. Fortify yourself with nuts and seeds. Take a protein-rich diet and add stuff like ginger, black pepper, honey, jaggery, lemongrass, Tulsi, cinnamon etc. to your daily schedule. I have always believed that an eclectic combination of scientific knowledge and old-world wisdom is the most effective. I like to choose what is practical and sustainable on a long-term basis. At the end of the day, whatever works, works! I would love to hear what works for you!!First Published – https://www.momspresso.com/parenting/article/i-had-never-thought-id-be-using-my-hospital-mask-at-home