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Dharna worsens Kejriwal cough

Kejriwal uses an inhaler during the dharna
on Monday

New Delhi, Jan. 22: Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s defiance in spending a night in the open winter cold has aggravated his allergic bronchitis, worsening a cough that has emerged as much his signature as the muffler around his neck.

Kejriwal visited the Yashoda Hospital near his home in Kaushambi, Ghaziabad, just outside the capital, this morning for what doctors have described as a “thorough diagnostic and clinical assessment” of the cough.

“He’s suffering from an exacerbation of allergic bronchitis,” Sunil Dagar, a physician and senior hospital administrator at Yashoda, told The Telegraph. Kejriwal had an X-ray, a CT scan and blood tests during his visit to the hospital.

The tests have ruled out any bacterial or viral infection, Dagar said. Kejriwal’s cough appears to have been lingering for weeks which, under standard medical guidelines, could have been a portent of a chronic condition.

Doctors said Kejriwal’s bronchitis worsened after he exposed himself to the cold on Monday night — the first day of his protest against the central government — when he slept on the ground, covering himself with a quilt, as night temperatures dipped below 10c.

While his advisers had urged Kejriwal to spend the night inside the warmth of his blue Wagon-R car parked at the protest site, the chief minister, who had issued a call to Delhi citizens to congregate at the site, insisted he would set an example and sleep outside.

“Exposure to cold and the lack of rest to his vocal chords have increased the severity and intensity of the cough,” said Naresh Gupta, a senior doctor in New Delhi, who is Kejriwal’s family physician. A CT scan of his chest revealed two lymph nodes but, Gupta said, as Kejriwal’s blood reports — specifically the value of a parameter called erythrocyte sedimentation ratio (ESR) — are normal, the lymph nodes are of no significance.

A high ESR along with a long-lasting cough can cause doctors to suspect a chronic bacterial infection. “His ESR and white blood cell counts are normal, there is no evidence of infection. He’s on standard medication for allergic bronchitis,” Gupta told this newspaper.

In allergic bronchitis, the airways get inflamed — the process triggered by viral infections or long-standing exposure to air pollutants such as dust, chemicals or tobacco smoke. Exposure to intense cold and damp weather can make the symptoms worse.

The standard therapy for allergic bronchitis involves drugs called bronchodilators and inhaled steroids, at times both, and — if absolutely required — a short-lasting course of oral steroids.

Gupta said the tests have also suggested that Kejriwal’s diabetes is now under “reasonable control”. He said: “We’ve recommended two days rest, also rest to his vocal chords and no exposure to cold.”