The city’s perennial foul air turns fouler after Diwali, aggravating the sufferings of individuals with medical conditions and causing many children and elderly people to fall ill.
Several doctors said patients have already started queuing up at clinics with complaints of respiratory distress, cough and other pollution-related ailments.
Many elderly people are worried they might fall sick immediately after the Diwali celebrations.
“Every year, after Diwali, there is an increase in the number of patients suffering from shortness of breath, cough and other respiratory diseases. They are mainly elderly people. Those suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma often have their conditions aggravated,” said Amitabha Saha, head of critical care at AMRI Hospitals, Mukundapur.
“These illnesses continue through the winter, but we see the maximum number in a short period after Diwali.”
Saha said he advised people, especially those with chronic respiratory diseases, to wear masks during the period.
Pulmonary and critical care specialist Saurabh Maji said he was getting calls from patients suffering from chronic illnesses. They are worried about their health as fireworks are being burst in their neighbourhoods unchecked.
“The vaccines for pneumonia or influenza cannot prevent respiratory distresses caused by pollutants,” said Maji. “The air pollution levels increase with the drop in temperature during winter. Fireworks make the situation worse. I have to admit patients complaining of shortness of breath and cough because their condition becomes serious,” he said.
Maji said that in some cases, it takes a couple of months for the pollutants-triggered cough to subside.
“I advise people with lung conditions to stop morning and evening walks and use masks. I ask them to ensure that the curtains in the rooms are washed more frequently during the period and doors and windows wiped with wet clothes to remove the dust and pollutants,” said Maji.
Children, too, suffer because of the rise in air pollution.
“There is an at least 30 per cent increase in children coming to my clinic with respiratory tract infections immediately after Diwali,” said Apurba Ghosh, director, Institute of Child Health, Calcutta.
Ghosh advises parents of children suffering from respiratory distress who are completing their courses of inhalers to continue with the medicines for another week after Diwali. “Otherwise the problem can recur because of the sudden increase in the pollution level,” he said.
According to Ghosh, children under two years, whose lungs are not fully developed, are particularly vulnerable. “For newborns, the sound pollution created by firecrackers can cause an impact. We don’t know the long-term effect of sound pollution on these babies,” he said.
Ghosh’s hospital also gets many children with burn injuries during Diwali and Kali Puja. “They mostly have burns in their hands. Also, their dresses catch fire when they burst crackers,” said Ghosh.
Sudipta Ghosh, head of ophthalmology at the RN Tagore International Institute of Cardiac Sciences, said eye injuries are common during Diwali.
“An eye injury, caused by fireworks, is an ocular emergency. It can either be a blunt trauma or an open eye injury. The injuries are mainly due to force, heat, burns and chemicals,” said Ghosh.
Direct exposure to firecracker fumes can cause severe burning sensation, teary eyes, pain in the form of corneal abrasion or burn, she said.
“The eyeball may get ruptured because of the direct force, causing severe vision impairment.”