Invisible Air Pollution and its visible effects on Lungs

A 24-year-old working woman in Delhi used to hit outdoors almost daily to go to work. One day she woke up feeling a little congested in her lungs and uneasy as she tried to take deep breaths.

Maya drank some water and started to get ready for work. As soon as she stepped out of her house, she felt a headache and faced the same difficulty breathing. She rushed to a pharmacy store and bought some medications. 

She went to her office, spent her usual day, and returned to her house later in the evening. She took her meds for five days but saw no progress. She then booked an appointment and went to see a doctor.

“Maya, you seem so physically fit; why are you so worried?” The doctor asked.

“I have a persistent cough. I feel difficulty in breathing sometimes.” Maya replied. “I also completed a medication course of five days but saw no positive result,” she added.

“Don’t worry, Maya. We will do some tests, and we will know what is the actual problem.” The doctor reassured her.

Soon, the doctor did some tests, and reports were out. The doctor told her that she had developed a respiratory illness due to prolonged exposure to air pollution. As they stay in the most polluted city in India, Delhi, the air pollution has finally affected her health. The doctor explained that the pollutants in the air were damaging Maya’s lungs and making it hard for her to breathe on some days.

Maya was devastated by the news. She had always been an active person who loved to exercise and spend time outdoors with her friends. But, she felt out of breath for the last few days, even while climbing stairs. 

“You have developed a respiratory illness that is causing all these symptoms. You don’t smoke; the only other cause of this chronic illness could be the polluted air surrounding us.” Doctor said.

“Various studies show an indirect connection between decreasing pulmonary health and air pollution. I have seen people develop COPD, lung cancer, asthma, infections, etc., exposed to polluted air in their city.” Maya’s doctor added.

Maya was tensed and asked her doctor to guide her. He told her about how this invisible air pollution affects an individual’s overall health and results in visible effects that can even take someone’s life. Maya’s doctor told her that it was not too late for her to focus on her health and do her part in saving herself.

“Maya, don’t worry. I will guide you on improving your health and staying safe. A foundation called Wingify Foundation, and their initiative Wingify Earth talks about air pollution and behavioural changes that can keep us safe from it.” 

Maya’s doctor shared the following tips with her. He also requested her make a check list of all these tips that she can tick at the end of each day at least for next 6 months.

  1. Covid taught us the importance of wearing a mask. If you can wear a mask whenever you go outside, you can save yourself from inhaling polluted air. 
  2. Avoid city areas with heavy traffic and pollution. If not, wear a mask at all costs.
  3. Change your diet and include more fruits and vegetables to boost your immunity and stay strong.
  4. Avoid outdoor exercise if your city’s AQI is poor, that is above 50
  5. Try breathing exercises to improve your lung capacity.
  6. Stop smoking, if you do, in the first place.
  7. Go for regular checkups to stay informed and safe.
  8. Mark above actions on the checklist every day without fail to remind you for compliance.

Maya was happy to hear that all these small changes in her daily life could improve her health. She went home pleased and determined she would not take her lungs for granted.

She persisted, and over time she felt better. She could breathe easily, and there was a reduction in her coughing and wheezing.

One thing that Maya and all of us should understand is that not everything invisible is harmless. Air pollution is harmful, and we should not take our lungs or health for granted. We have to fight against a silent killer. With just small changes in her lifestyle and behaviour, Maya could fight air pollution, save her lungs and started living a normal healthy life.

Before it’s too late, we should also make behavioural changes to reduce air pollution and stay healthy. Maya took the right step at the right time. When are you taking your health seriously?

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