Storms increase dust level in air, hospitals see rise in patients

City hospitals reported a spike in cases of respiratory diseases, even as dust storm in neighbouring states raised levels of PM2.5 to the ‘poor’ level from Sunday.

Shilpy Arora | TNN
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GURUGRAM: City hospitals reported a spike in cases of respiratory diseases, even as dust storm in neighbouring states raised levels of PM2.5 to the ‘poor’ level from Sunday.

Last Wednesday’s dust storm had already led to a sudden increase in number of cases of respiratory diseases. According to doctors, while Artemis Hospital and Civil Hospital reported a 20-25% increase in the number of pulmonology patients than average figures for this season, Columbia Asia Hospital witnessed a 25-30% increase and Fortis Hospital a 30-40% spike.

Storms increase dust level in air, hospitals see rise in patients

“Generally, we see a rise in respiratory ailments during crop burning season. This gradually goes down in May as the heat rises and pollution comes down. However, this year, we’re seeing a sudden rise in the number of pulmonology cases due to dust storms. Allergic patients are showing asthma symptoms such as breathlessness and airway allergy. It’s quite worrying,” said Dr Piyush Goel, senior pulmonologist at Columbia Asia.

Doctors also reported they have been seeing a lot of new cases.

Dr Himanshu Garg, the head of pulmonology at Artemis, said, “We’ve seen a sudden rise in cases since Wednesday last. I’m still dealing with patients from the last dust storm. There are many cases of exacerbation of asthma, especially among the youth — 16-22-year-olds. What’s worse is the spike in new patients complaining of breathlessness.”

Doctors advised vulnerable groups, as well as others, to take precautions for Tuesday.

“Face masks are a must for all, as a dust storm is expected on Tuesday. Asthmatic patients, children and elderly should avoid exposure to the outdoors. Preventive medication can be taken as per doctor’s advice,” said Dr Krishan Chugh, head of pulmonology at Fortis.

Some doctors, though, laid the blame for the the spike in respiratory diseases on crop burning. “Increase in concentration of particulate matter is perennial in a place like Gurugram. I don’t think we can only blame dust storm, crop burning is also a cause. However, a dust storm on Tuesday can make the situation worse,” said Dr Arunesh Kumar, senior pulmonologist, Paras Hospital.

While the highest level of PM2.5 on Monday stood at 163 µg/m³ and on Sunday at 186 µg/m³, it was 69 µg/m³ and 77 µg/m³ on Saturday and Friday, respectively. Air Quality Index (AQI) also worsened to ‘poor’ in the past two days, from ‘Moderate’ before. Overall, Gurugram’s AGI is worse than Delhi’s. While AQI in Gurugram was 236 and 291 on Monday and Sunday, respectively, it was 205 and 269 in Delhi on the same days.

According to Haryana State Pollution Control Board (HSPCB), an increase in wind speed is mainly responsible for rise in concentration of particulate matter.

“The problem is there is an increase in wind speed, which generally leads to dust pollution. Also, unlike Delhi, we hardly witnessed any rain in Gurugram last week. This made it worse, as rain helps settle particu-late matter,” HSPCB officials said.

The Met department expects rain on Tuesday morning, followed by dust storm in the afternoon.

Wind speed is likely to be in the range of 50-70 kmph during the storm.

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