Air Pollution and its effect on COVID-19 recovered patients
COVID is not over, even if it appears the world has forgotten about it. We have returned to living in the same unabashed unabated way we did before, no one seems to care about social distancing, wearing masks, nor about the fatally high levels of air pollution we deal with anyway each winter in North India. Remember the early weeks of lockdown when flamingos could be seen outside Mumbai and people could see the Himalayas from Uttar Pradesh and other states for the first time in 30 years. As lockdowns were imposed around the world, many urban got a huge break from poor air quality.
The speed with which emissions fell and air quality improved is a clear indication of how quickly our living conditions can improve when real action takes place.
With drops in temperature across the country, comes a drop in air quality, only this year a lot of people are recovering from COVID-19 while breathing in toxic air. Lung experts have warned people about the ill effects of air pollution on COVID patients and those recovering from it.
Does Air Pollution Increase Covid-19 Incidence?
Each year, 7 million people lose their lives because air pollution across the world. Scientists today are grappling with new variants of the coronavirus and countries are seeing resurgence in cases with alarming speed. Recent studies into air pollution and its effects on COVID patients has suggested air pollution does more than just aggravating respiratory disease in patients recovering from covid. Air pollution contributed to spreading more COVID-19 infections, it also aggravated more severe symptoms in people who had
Coronavirus disease which naturally lead to less favourable outcomes for recovering patients as well. Air pollution and coronavirus disease on their own are fatal, in Delhi, the second most polluted city in the world, we have air pollution during the COVID-19 pandemic: a recipe for disaster.
Studies continue on air pollution and Covid-19 mortality but it’s almost safe to assume there will be a clear link between poor air quality and COVID mortality. In yet to be reviewed study, researchers at Harvard University have found that higher levels of fine particulate matter, or PM2.5, are associated with higher death rates from Covid-19, you can imagine the amount of PM 2.5 that’s going about in Delhi’s air which average an AQI of 480 in November alone. A study in the Netherlands found that Covid-19 cases increase by a 100 percent when air pollution concentration rises by 20 percent.
A paper based on research from Italy, Spain, France and Germany found that almost 80 percent of deaths were reported from five regions with the highest concentration of NO (nitrogen oxide). Covid-19 and SARS belong to the same family of viruses, and studies as old as 2003 found that patients with Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) who resided in areas with high air pollution were twice as likely to die from it than those who lived in regions with good air quality.
We have to come together and force governments to better enforce air pollution regulations to protect us and the future of our children. If you have Covid, and you breathe polluted air, it’s like adding fuel to fire.
Air Pollution and COVID Recovery
According to pulmonary experts, and doctors who treat lung disorders, poor air quality also has the potential to cause severe complications in patients who are infected with Covid-19.
Higher level of air pollutants can adversely affect those who are suffering from lung-related disorders like a chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD) or Covid-19, making the recovery much longer and harder.
Even moderate dips in air quality can make it harder for COPD patients to breathe. We strongly advise patients who have recently recovered from Covid-19 to not step out in the early morning hours and late-night hours as the air pollution is at its worst then.
Coronavirus disease itself is respiratory disease that affects respiratory organs and sometimes, its effects can be experienced long after recovering from it: this is called long covid.
In some patients recovering from Covid-19, lung experts have seen the development of lung fibrosis. Our doctors warn people who have any lung disorders and those recovering from Covid-19 to take extra precautions during spells of poor air quality.
We urge everyone to remain vigilant and continue to wear masks as they will reduce the spread of the virus and also prevents us from breathing in air pollutants.
Feel free to reach out to us if you or anyone you know is facing difficulties recovering from COVID-19.
Dr. Akshay Budhraja
Respiratory & Sleep Medicine