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Keep asthma at bay this Deepavali

News18

Updated: October 19, 2011, 10:37 AM IST
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Keep asthma at bay this Deepavali
CHENNAI: How often do you see a sea of kids raising their hands when a question like 'How many of you will abstain from bursting c..

CHENNAI: How often do you see a sea of kids raising their hands when a question like 'How many of you will abstain from bursting crackers?' is asked, just a week before Deepavali? Not at all, would be the safest answer, unless you're at a convention of environment protection agencies. But if you happened to be at the auditorium of the P S Higher Secondary School in Mylapore on Tuesday, where asthma specialist Dr Sridharan was conducting a 'say no to fireworks' campaign, you would have been witness to just that sight.
"Every year, during the Deepavali season, we have a marked increase in patients requiring treatment because the smoke and fumes from fireworks trigger their asthma," said the specialist, who also added that in general, that combined with the cold weather till February meant that close to 35 per cent more asthma cases came in for treatment during the season
The doctor played videos that advocated staying away from fireworks because not only did it affect asthmatics and elderly people, but it was also a major source of air and noise pollution. On Deepavali day, the suspended matter and toxic gases in the ambient air are approximately 200 times more than the prescribed safety limits of air pollution as given by the WHO. Sridharan, who approaches the treatment of asthma from an allergic view-point as opposed to seeing it as a disease, says that staying away from firecrackers altogether would be the wisest course of action for asthmatics. "When healthy people themselves can have bouts of coughing and sneezing and watering eyes because of the chemicals used in these crackers, think of how much worse it could be for an asthmatic," he explained.
Not only were firecrackers a potential cause for bronchial asthma for a select group (kids with a history of respiratory ailments), they could also be extremely dangerous for children who are not aware that they were asthmatic.
Revealing that close to 12 per cent of children whom he had screened for asthma in city schools had airway inflammations but were unaware of it, he added that their parents would be unprepared if these children suddenly had an attack. "At least children who are known asthmatics will be prepared with inhalers and prescribed medicine."
After the awareness programme, the response was better than expected. While the older students cited reasons of saving the environment, curbing the employment of kids in fireworks factories in Sivakasi and health reasons for swearing off crackers for Diwali 2011, the younger ones were more candid in their approach.
"Normally, we burst crackers for an entire week. Now, maybe we can bring it down to one day alone," said one fourth-standard boy, mischievously. Another was practical and honest, "See, this year bursting (of crackers) cannot be stopped," he said and added, "It has already been purchased and wasting them will be very bad. Next year, we will try and stop!" Even if the volume of fireworks used is brought down, then that is a significant change, said Sridharan, who conducted the programme as part of Cipla's BreatheFree initiative.

First Published: October 19, 2011, 10:37 AM IST
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