Life throws up good days and bad days – suddenly and unexpectedly. In the life of an asthmatic too there are good days and there are bad days. Experience has shown that October and November have generally been bad days for most asthmatics in north India.
Let us try to understand why this is so and learn some lessons and prepare for the bure din.
Change of season, generally speaking, is a bad time for asthmatics. Many types of pollens and some types of fungal spores are more at the time of changing season. Kikkar or babul tree (Prosopis julifora) is one such example. More pollen means more symptoms for pollen sensitized patients.
Patients of asthma somehow assume that “coldness” or low temperatures have a bad influence on asthma. This may be true for some asthmatics. Many asthmatics experience some aggravation of asthma on breathing in very cold air, as happens in running in the open on a very cold day. But it is also true that many asthma patients actually improve when visiting a very cold country like Canada or Sweden. So coldness, per se, is not the main culprit.
Fog and Smog. With the arrival of winter, fog and smog set in. Does that aggravate asthma? Yes it does. What is the difference between fog and smog? To put things very simply: Fog is a high concentration of water vapour near the ground. Or in other words, fog is a cloud in contact with the ground. Smog is high concentration pollution near the ground. Smog comes from manmade sources like traffic or factories. Fog is a natural phenomenon.
Fog is Fog. Smog is fog + smoke.
Crop Burning. For the last couple of years we all have read in the newspapers that crop burning in Punjab and Haryana is contributing to the smog. What is really happening? Earlier crops were cut by hand and sickle. This was done very near to the ground and a very small stalk was left behind. Now most of the crops are cut by machines which cut at a greater height above the ground and hence taller stalk is left behind. The farmers later set these on fire before the next crop is sown. The smoke from this activity, which has a very high particulate content, travels long distance and adversly affects the asthma patients.
Dussehra and Diwali. Burning of crackers also contributes to pollution at this very time.
More Respiratory Viral Infections at this time of the year also make life difficult.
So what lessons do we learn from all this?
1. Be prepared. This will happen every year at this time.
2. Restrict morning walks and outdoor activities between 5 and 10 am in these months.
3. Good quality and well fitting face masks can help.
4. Air purifiers which have HEPA filters can reduce the particulate matter load, at least at night when you sleep.
5. Be regular with your medications. If required, step up the dose after consulting your doctor.
The bure din may not be as bad for asthmatic people if the above precautions are taken. You can sail through the ‘changing season’ and enjoy your festivals despite your asthma. Do remember to keep taking your medicines and visiting your doctor for asthma as advised.