What Is The Link Between COPD And Air Pollution? Know Expert Tips To Manage Them

There is a link between COPD and air pollution. On World COPD day 2021, here are some expert tips to manage them.

Navya Kharbanda
Written by: Navya KharbandaUpdated at: Nov 16, 2021 17:51 IST
What Is The Link Between COPD And Air Pollution? Know Expert Tips To Manage Them

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Air pollution has been posing stringent threat on the overall health of individuals with respiratory ailments especially chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD) cases on the rise. It is that time of the year when Delhi NCR and its surrounding areas grapple with bad air and pollution which makes life difficult for most of us. The problem of air pollution has increased dramatically since the last decade which may have increased the prevalence even further.

COPD is a common, preventable, and treatable chronic lung disease causing narrowing and constriction of the airways that help us breathe usually caused by significant exposure to noxious particles or gases . COPD is also termed as “emphysema” or “chronic bronchitis”. While it is shocking to know that COPD is the second most common cause of Non-Communicable Disease -related mortality in the country, yet many people and even some Doctors do not have much knowledge about it.

According to a study published in The Lancet Journal, there has been a staggering rise of almost 100% in the last decade pertaining to the COPD cases in India. The study also witnessed a gigantic 13% loss of life, killing around 10 lakh patients with COPD every year. Even in light of COVID pandemic, COPD remains a leading cause of death an hence there is never a more important period to focus on the Lung health. 

With an aim to increase awareness among the general public about the chronic inflammatory lung condition, every year 17th November is observed as World COPD Day. This year with the theme ‘healthy lungs – never more important’ aims to emphasize on the fact that the burden of COPD has not subsided even during the COVID Era. Onlymyhealth editorial team spoke to Dr. Sharad Joshi, Associate Director – Pulmonology, Max Hospital, Vaishali, about the link between COPD and air pollution, and some simple ways to manage.

Also read: Health Benefits Of COPD Breathing Exercise

Link between COPD and air pollution

The onset of problems associated with COPD usually are symptomized from mid-life onwards where the sufferer feels shortness of breath, difficulty in breathing or breathlessness that may cause long stabbing cough with phlegm and episodes of frequent tiredness. Even though the symptoms develop gradually over time they are usually a resultant from a host of risk factors including active smoking of cigarettes or bidis or even from passive smoking, exposure to environmental pollution like dust, fumes or any other toxic chemicals.

Since the pollutants suspended in the air becomes deeply lodged inside the lungs and cause irritation thereby damaging the respiratory tract, extensive exposure to bad air has a significant connection to trigger a COPD attack. Increased air pollution can also lead to various respiratory infections that can further lead to COPD attacks.

For those with pre-existing lung conditions high levels of exposure to pollutants can flare up the attack of asthma or COPD, while healthy looking people who work or exercise outdoors may experience the symptoms only when they are exposed to air pollution for a relatively longer duration. Various studies also claim and prove that those living nearby excess road traffic are at a higher prevalence and risk for developing COPD.

The extent of lung damage caused by air pollution depends directly on various factors like the type of pollutants in the environment, the concentration of pollutants and how deep the particles get inside the airways. Irrespective of age and gender barrier, every individual reacts differently to the damage caused due to the air pollution, with some being highly affected than others.

Also read: What is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)? Causes, Signs, Risk Factors And Preventive Measures

Managing COPD and air pollution

Lifestyle modification plays a pivotal role in the prevention and management of the condition. Despite being an irreversible condition, the treatment regime looks to relieve the symptoms, improve the quality of life by further reducing the risk of further damage. There are many good and effective lifestyle changes that one can make. Here are some tips to manage COPD:

1. Smoking cessation

Smoking cigarettes or even inhaling the harmful smoke during passive smoking can be harmful for your lungs. The chemical substances that give birth to air pollution can be a major cause behind COPD and can worsen the symptoms of a patient who is already suffering from the disease.

2. Avoiding visit to areas with poor air quality or high air pollution

If you are going outside the house, do not forger to wear a N95 mask. In fact, avoid visiting areas that have poor air quality. Make sure to step out of the house only in an emergency as the high air polution can make it difficult to manage lung health.

3. Avoid exposure to toxic fumes

Eliminating the exposure to toxic fumes and chemicals as much as possible is important to manage the symptoms of COPD and exacerbations. Avoid the exposure to toxic chemicals and harmful substances as much as you can.

Also read: Know The Impact of Air Pollution On Human Health And Environment

4. Regular exercising and physical activities

Regular exercise helps in strengthening the lungs and generally improves the cardiovascular function in those with COPD. You can engage in various forms of exercise including yoga, jogging and aerobic exercises. Physical activities are extremely beneficial for managing COPD. Avoid going out because of the increasing air pollution, thus prefer indulging in at home workouts and specific COPD breathing exercises.

These were some ways to manage COPD and air pollution by Dr. Sharad Joshi. While there is a dire need to raise awareness regarding this disease and act accordingly, people should not ignore the lung problems or delay treatment, but try to improve the quality of life by staying fit and healthy.

Image credits: Freepik