With the level of pollutants and particulate matter in the air going up, hospitals in the city have witnessed a spurt in the number of people suffering from respiratory ailments, asthma and bronchitis.
The condition of patients already suffering from respiratory diseases like asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) worsens during this time of the year as pollution levels are high because of fog and smog, said Dr J C Suri, professor and head of pulmonary medicine at Safdarjang Hospital.
"There is an increase in the number of patients coming to us with complaints of respiratory ailments such as cough, cold, sore throat and chest congestion.
"Also when the pollution levels rise, patients suffering from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) become more sick and their condition worsens. We usually tell such patients to avoid going out during the dawn and dusk hours when pollution levels are at their peak," said Dr Suri.
According to an expert from Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) there has been a "seven-fold increase" in Delhi's air pollution level since October. Even real-time exposure readings of nearly all monitoring stations put PM 2.5 and PM 10 figures above the 'severe' threshold.
According to a senior doctor at AIIMS, the tiny PM 2.5 particles travel deep into the lungs and get trapped there causing thickening and swelling of the windpipe and in turn aggravate lung function and cardiac conditions.
"While immediate affects are cough, throat infections and pneumonia etc, in the long run it may lead to lung cancers," said the doctor.
According to Dr Arvind Kumar, Chairman at the Centre for Chest Surgery at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital and founder trustee of Lung Care Foundation, children and elderly are the worst affected.
"The windpipes in children are small in size so any thickening in the lining of the airways causes much more obstruction to air flow than in adults. We have seen a significant increase in the number of children coming with breathing difficulty and being put on nebulizer treatment.
"Also there has been increased hospital admissions of elderly for heart and vascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and respiratory infection," he said.
Lamenting the increasing concentration of pollutants in air, Dr Kumar said, "A time may come very soon when smart car makers will start providing oxygen masks and nebulizer points as accessories in the cars so that whenever you are travelling and choking, you can use them".