- Avoid stepping outdoors unless completely necessary
- Wear a mask whenever you go outside
- Follow hand hygiene protocols regularly
Many countries around the world are experiencing high levels of air pollution. After months of lockdown, several cities in India are bearing the brunt toxic air quality. Experts are of the belief that high levels of air pollution and COVID-19 pandemic can be a toxic combination which can have severe consequences. Dr Maria Neria from the World Health Organization mentions in a video that exposure to air pollution represents 7 million premature deaths every year. COVID-19 is primarily a disease of the respiratory system, and exposure to toxic air increases the risk of diseases of respiratory system.
Air pollution and COVID-19: Know how this double burden can impact our body and what you can do
This means that people who are exposed to toxic air are more susceptible and vulnerable to COVID-19, says Dr Neria in the video released on YouTube.
Explaining how air pollution impacts our body, she says, "Poor quality of air affects our lungs directly. Through our lungs, it can cause major damage by increasing the risk of chronic respiratory diseases like obstructive chronic pulmonary diseases, asthma and pneumonia amongst others."
Air pollution results in a significant increase in the concentration of Particulate Matter 2.5 (PM2.5), which are tiny particles in the air. When these tiny particles, that are 1/30th the size of human hair, are inhaled, they travel all the way to the base of the lungs and enter the blood stream, resulting in widespread damage to all the major organs in the body.
"There is robust evidence to suggest that the rate of people getting infected with COVID-19 is much higher in areas where there are high levels of air pollution. There is a strong correlation between air pollution and severity of COVID-19 infection resulting in increase in mortality. Those who have recovered from COVID-19 infection are also significantly susceptible to effects of the pollution," Dr P Raghu Ram, President, The Association of Surgeons of India, tells DoctorNDTV.
What you can do to stay protected?
Basic guidelines for protection from COVID-19 like regularly washing hands, maintaining physical distancing and wearing a mask at all times is of utmost importance. As advised by WHO, it is important to avoid three Cs: crowded places, closed settings and confined places with poor ventilation.
Dr Ram suggests the following tips you need to keep in mind:
- Wherever possible, limit going out. The elderly, those who are immunocompromised and those with chronic respiratory conditions, must stay indoors.
- Wearing a properly fitted mask and social distancing is a must when out in the community.
- Practicing hand hygeine is very important.
- Avoid exercising outdoors as increase in inhalation of polluted air results in significant damage to the respiratory system. Adjust to the new normal and increase indoor physical activity.
- Indoor air pollution must be kept in control. Avoid incense sticks and mosquito repellent sprays.
- Say no to fire crackers as they only worsen air quality.
- Do simple yogic practices like Simha Kriya, whic can significantly enhance one's immunity. You can also do Pranayama (Breathing exercises) and mediation, which can calm the mind and body.
- Consume a healthy diet as it helps to improve immunity.
- Be positive - having a positive mindset is extremely important during this 'doom and gloom' all around us.
(Dr. P Raghu Ram, President, The Association of Surgeons of India)
Disclaimer: This content including advice provides generic information only. It is in no way a substitute for qualified medical opinion. Always consult a specialist or your own doctor for more information. NDTV does not claim responsibility for this information.