In Singapore, hazy conditions lead to the shutdown of offices and schools. In the Chinese capital Beijing, excessive smog is reason enough for its government to order cars off the road. Should Delhi or Mumbai follow the same rules when they are facing dust storms or waterlogging?

Dusty Delhi

“The air in Delhi these days is so bad that it is an emergency, and the government should consider discouraging people from travelling for work," says Rommel Tickoo, principal consultant, internal medicine, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Saket, Delhi.

Dust pneumonia, an acute type of respiratory distress that can develop into an infection of the lungs, can also occur if dust in large amounts is inhaled. Dust can also affect the eyes, leading to irritation, redness, watering and infections. “Long-term exposure can also lead to rhinitis (irritation and inflammation of the mucous membrane inside the nose) and sinusitis (inflammation of the air cavities within the passages of the nose)," adds Dr Tickoo.

During a dust storm, virus spores in the ground are blown into the atmosphere with the minute particles. “These are inhaled and can result in viral infections leading to upper respiratory infection and severe cough," says Vikas Maurya, senior consultant and head, department of pulmonology and sleep disorders, Fortis Hospital, Shalimar Bagh, Delhi.

Dust storms have hit Delhi’s air quality. Photo: Yogendra Kumar/Hindustan Times
Dust storms have hit Delhi’s air quality. Photo: Yogendra Kumar/Hindustan Times

Ideally, one should avoid going outdoors in such conditions, but if that is not possible, follow these basic precautions, say Dr Maurya and Dr Tickoo:

Cover the nose and mouth with a mask to avoid inhaling dust and harmful small particles. Use a medical-grade N95 or N99 mask.

Keep the eyes covered with shades all the time. Avoid wearing contact lenses. Do not rub the eyes if exposed to dust, as it can cause more damage; instead, rinse them with water.

Hydration is a must. Try to drink 4-5 litres of fluids in a day. Avoid caffeine and alcohol as they are very dehydrating.

Mumbai monsoon

Meanwhile, Mumbai is gearing up for its own nightmare. “Every year, Mumbaikars are hit by seasonal fevers like dengue, malaria, typhoid and leptospirosis in the monsoon and post-monsoon period," says Rajesh Jaria, consultant, internal medicine, Hinduja Healthcare Surgical, Mumbai. Lower temperatures, waterlogging, and an increase in mosquito-breeding can be the cause.

To prevent mosquito bites, “cover your skin during the time when mosquitoes are active. Apply protective spray to your clothing and skin whenever you step out to go to work," advises Dr Jaria.

Try not to walk through dirty or muddy water—it may be infected by rat urine and could lead to leptospirosis. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint
Try not to walk through dirty or muddy water—it may be infected by rat urine and could lead to leptospirosis. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

Typhoid is usually transmitted via contaminated food or water. “Two vaccines are available, one injectable as a single dose and one taken by mouth over a few days. However, the best way to avoid contracting this disease is by monitoring your water and food. Carry food from home. If the stomach plays up, immediately begin taking ORS and eating home-made curd which contains good bacteria," says Vaishali Lokhande, consultant, internal medicine, Apollo Hospitals, Navi Mumbai.

Try not to walk through dirty or muddy water—it may be infected by rat urine and could lead to leptospirosis. “People with poor immunity are prone to severe complications of leptospirosis. Closed footwear, for example gumboots, is the best for walking in muddy water if unavoidable," says Dr Lokhande.

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