Four simple ways to breathe fresh air in a polluted city

Here's more that you can do to breathe cleaner air indoors and outdoors.

 |  3-minute read |   20-06-2015
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Every human inhales approximately ten thousand litres of air every day. The lungs, due to their continuity with the outside environment, are exposed to a plethora of pollutants and infecting organisms. Though regular exercise, healthy diet and avoidance of smoking are the most important measures for the general public to keep their lungs healthy, here's more that you can do to breathe fresh air indoors and outdoors:

#1. Prevention is better than cure: Regular immunisation of select populations such as children, elderly, asthmatics and immune-compromised is very important in prevention. In case of any respiratory symptom including cough, sputum, breathlessness, chest pain, please a respiratory physician to prevent serious events and hospitalisation. In addition to this, people with respiratory diseases in particular need to avoid going to place with high vehicular traffic especially in evening when the level of suspended particles is usually at its peak.

#2. Squeaky clean environment: As homes and offices are important places where in people spend their majority of time, keeping them clean is imperative to staying and breathing pure air. Staying ahead of dust and dust mites can dramatically improve the air quality you breathe on an everyday basis. Use a vacuum cleaner that utilises a HEPA-type filter so that as you are cleaning and not just spitting the dust back into the air. Be wary of unhealthy or irritating vapours may be released from chemicals in cleaning products. Always choose non-aerosol and non-toxic product and manufacturers' should follow directions while using, storing and disposing them. Also many animals leave allergens, such as dander, hair, feathers or skin, in the air. Therefore, keep them outdoors as often as possible and deep clean areas where pets are permitted.

#3. Let the fresh air in: Adequate cross ventilation is crucial at home, especially in the kitchen. Even the so called clean and smokeless fuels such as LPG can cause chronic respiratory diseases on prolonged exposure. Besides this, air conditioners and coolers should be regularly cleaned. Indoor plants can be important triggers for asthma, hence should be avoided by people suffering from asthma. Apart from this, dampness at home also harbours biological pollutants, including allergens such as mould, mildew, dust mites and cockroaches. If possible, eliminate moisture sources and install exhaust fans and dehumidifier. Another alternative is using a solution of chlorine bleach (one cup bleach to one gallon water) to remove mould and mildew. During summers, don't skip cleaning your air conditioners and its components such as water tray and filter at regular intervals as they harbour many biological allergens.

#4. Avoid passive smoking: Smoking inside closed spaces should be avoided in homes, offices and while travelling. In addition to the harm to the smokers, non-smokers who live with smokers also suffer the harmful effects of second-hand smoke. Second-hand smoke contains the same four thousand chemicals that are inhaled by a smoker. About 50 of these chemicals are associated with, or are known to cause cancer. Smoking in a closed-in space such as a car greatly increases the concentration of harmful chemicals produced by second-hand smoke.

Writer

Dr Mrinal Sircar Dr Mrinal Sircar

The writer is the director and head of the department of pulmonology and respiratory diseases at Fortis Hospital, Noida.

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