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Pulmonologists blame unplanned devpt of Indian cities for rising pollution and asthma cases

Our Bureau, Bengaluru
Thursday, May 14, 2015, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

Unplanned development of cities, lack of infrastructure, changing lifestyle and increasing pollution have increased the incidence of asthma in India, observes respiratory medicine and pulmonology experts.

It is vital for the government to ensure dedicated units in primary health centres (PHCs) and government hospitals to provide the first line care for wheezing patients who are not just from urban but rural areas too.

As per a recent study released by Breathe Blue’15, about 35 per cent school-going children fared badly in Lung Health Screening Test (LHST), indicating poor air quality across India. A worrisome 21 per cent of the children surveyed in Delhi fared ‘Poor’ in the LHST conducted on them followed by 14 per cent in Bengaluru, 13 per cent in Mumbai and 9 per cent in Kolkata.

India has an estimated 15-20 million asthmatics, according to World Health Organisation.

According to Dr Shashidhar Buggi, director, Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Chest Diseases, the number of asthmatics is on an upward trend. This is clearly due to air pollution. Early pollutants were only from charcoal and smoking, but now vehicles and crackers are adding to the pollutants. Further use of chemical irritants at industries are also culprits of this respiratory disorder.

But the big concern is the affordability of patients to treat. The condition results in absenteeism and wage loss among the economically backward. Therefore every PHC and government hospital should be armed with doctors to administer care, he added.

Asthma is likely to be serious due to a higher level of external pollutants and environmental contamination, said Dr Ravindra Mehta, chief, pulmonology and critical care, Apollo Hospitals, Bengaluru.

The condition impacts all age groups from children to elderly. Therefore there is a need for the government and primacy health centres to invest for treatment of asthma cases going by its rising incidence. It is true that the grass-root solutions and the last mile approach are very important, he added.

Among the latest to control or treat the condition covers inhalers, including bronchodilators and anti-inflammatory steroids. In addition, anti-allergic pills are sometimes recommended, he added.

Further, nebulizers, and spacers, which help to improve delivery of medications are seen to be some of the latest technologies to support patient therapy, said Dr Mehta.

The condition is controllable but rarely curable, except childhood asthma, which may resolve by 12 years of age.

Although the treatment of asthma is much better than before and significant advances have been made in handling cases  compared to 20 years ago. There is also considerable ongoing research in progress, he said.


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