New Delhi: Festival season, especially Diwali, comes with happiness, joy, and prosperity but for Mr. Verma (name changed), 72, this time of the year comes with the fear of being hospitalized.
In the past 4 years, Mr. Verma has been hospitalized for 3 years during the festival season due to the poor air quality, which results in the exacerbation of his respiratory condition. Last year, he was sure to skip the hospital admission as Supreme Court ordered an umbrella ban on the firecrackers. However, the ban couldn’t rescue Mr. Verma as air pollution was rocket high post-Diwali. This year with the selective ban, Mr. Verma is not very hopeful about skipping the hospital visit. His son Rajesh has already started precautions to prevent annual ordeal of Mr. Verma by making certain changes at home and availing home healthcare services.
Air quality in Delhi is on the decline as an annual event. The government has already started issuing health advisories for the public. With Diwali just around the corner, the pollution is expected to rise further. Carbon monoxide, ozone, nitrogen dioxide, and nitric oxide are the commonly known pollutants; however, most lethal among all is particulate material also known as PM 2.5. A study concluded that Diwali adds about 40 μg/m3 to PM 2.5 particulate concentrations. The concentration may appear low but in the already polluted air, it adds insult to the injury.
“Elderly are badly hit by pollution demon every year. Every year hospitals register a rise in hospital admissions on account of respiratory diseases during this time. Most of the readmissions are on account of exacerbation of already existing respiratory diseases. Around 15% of our home care patients move to hospitals every year this time”, said Dr. Manreet Kahlon COO IVH SeniorCare.
After Diwali, increased pollutants remain in the atmosphere for 3 to 4 days; therefore, it is very important that elders are well taken care of not only during Diwali but also post-Diwali, Dr. Kahlon added.
Diwali celebration by bursting crackers not only deteriorates air quality but also causes noise pollution. The effect of noise pollution may vary from one person to another; however, elders suffer the most.
Dr. Gaurav Thukral, COO HeathCare atHome said, “Air pollution and noise pollution poses a serious health risk for the elderly. Aging decreases the overall efficiency of the body. The air and noise pollution levels that can be tolerable to a young person can be hazardous to the elderly. Taking the current pollution levels into consideration, even contributing minimally to the levels is a sin and people have also started realizing this fact. However, people are still unaware about the ill-effects of long-term exposure to noise pollution, which are hypertension, high-stress levels, tinnitus, hearing loss, and sleep disturbances.”
Understanding the practicality of the situation, this year even Supreme Court shied-away from imposing a complete ban on crackers. Experience from the past urges us to brace us for another pollution burst during Diwali. Elders should be given extra attention during this time. Change in weather superimposed by high pollution is not an ideal situation for the elderly. Walking and exercising is always promoted as the means of good health but skipping both during this time of the year is a better option for the elderly. It is advisable that they stay indoors in a ventilated room with low sound penetrations. Air purifiers should be used when available. Earplugs are a good option to keep noise pollution at bay.
“Festivals also come with a variety of cuisine. In the old age, digestion is not as efficient as for young people. Therefore, it is advisable that you also keep a check on the calorie intake of your elders. Diet restrictions are more important for elders with diabetes and hypertension”, said Dr. Kahlon.