May 2022
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Asthma and Air pollution
Asthma is a respiratory disease affecting both children and adults ,characterized by intermittent spasm of the airways due to increased hyper-responsiveness to both allergic and non allergic stimuli. The air passages in the lungs become narrow due to the inflammation and tightening of the muscles around the small airways. This causes asthma symptoms such as cough,wheeze,shortness of breath,and chest tightness.

These symptoms are intermittent and are often worse at night or during exercise. Airway inflammation is a key underlying feature of asthma. Triggers or precipitants can make asthma symptoms worse. Air pollution is a very important precipitant of asthma.

Air pollution is any visible or invisible particle or gas found in the air that is not part of the natural composition of air. Air pollutants include increased levels of irreparable particles ,ozone, so2 (sulfur dioxide), and no2 (nitrogen dioxide) in the air. It includes outdoor air pollution(also known as ambient air pollution) and indoor air pollution.

With the levels of outdoor air pollution from industrial and motor vehicle emissions rising rapidly in the industrializing countries, prevalence of asthma has also been increasing.

Air pollution is associated with asthma worsening and may also be a causal factor in the development of asthma. Indoor air pollution includes indoor particulate matter, second hand smoke and wood smoke.

Cigarette smoking is the most important cause for air pollution and is associated with uncontrolled asthma in addition, exposure to second hand smoke (combination of smoke from the burning end of a cigarette and the smoke breathed out by smokers) is a risk for the development of asthma. Air pollution increases asthma symptoms,need for medications, reduces the lung function and increases emergency department visits and hospitalizations.

It is the responsibility of the citizens and the regulatory public health authorities to curb the sources of pollution,reduce emissions and to introduce efficacious preventive measures so that health effects on the population particularly those with lung diseases can be mitigated.

Dr Rohith S,
Consultant, Department of Respiratory Medicine
KIMSHEALTH Trivandrum.

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