Doctors fear a surge in allergies, respiratory troubles

Safeena Wani

Srinagar: The last year’s flood of biblical proportion contaminated the Valley’s air to an extent that the number of patients with respiratory complaints has increased manifold, say doctors at Chest Diseases Hospital (CDH).
And to make the matters worse, the number of such patients is only going to increase with the advent of summer—dry season means more dust in air and hence more pollutants.
Dr Khurshid Dar, an assistant professor at CDH, said that dust and Persistent Organic Pollutants (organic compounds that resist environmental degradation and remain in atmosphere for a longer time) increased after the floods. So did the number of patients.
Not only has the number of patients increased but people above 40 and having a history of susceptibility to allergies have become more vulnerable.
These pollutants trigger allergic reactions such as coughing, wheezing asthma and can aggravate existing respiratory and cardiac conditions, he added.
Dr Mushtaq, who examines patients in the OPD, said on an average about 300 patients visit the hospital per day during winter. The number gradually falls to about 150 in summers. But after floods, it has consistently remained above 300.
According to Dr Dar, persons exposed to pollutants because of their professions—stone cutters, masons, traffic cops—formed a bulk of the patient rush to the hospital before floods. Post floods, however, the number of persons outside this high-risk group has also increased.
Flood-hit houses had had no chance to dry up during the long winter spell and have become ideal breeding grounds of fungi. Dr Dar said many people have become allergic after smelling the damp, fungi-laden air in their houses.
The doctor said the floods have aggravated the already existing pollution in the form of indoor pollutants such as carpet dust, volatile organic compounds, room fresheners, incense etc and the pollution caused by traffic.
Amid this grim situation, a report by State Pollution Control Board says the amount of Suspended Particle Matter (SPM) in Srinagar city is 10 units (between 110 and 114 compared to a normal limit of 100 micrograms) high than the safer levels.
Inhalation of particulate matter can increase susceptibility to respiratory infections such as asthma and chronic bronchitis.