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Chillai kalan and Covid

Snow-clad view of Srinagar's Dal Lake and adjoining areas last week (KM/Umar Ganie)

Finding itself in the grip of severe cold, Kashmir and its residents are again banking on the age-old methods to keep their hearths and bodies warm. However, with Covid-19 pandemic gripping the entire world, cold weather turns even more challenging, especially for the elderly who are already prone to viral diseases. It is indeed a double whammy for the people in Kashmir, unlike mainland India, as we have to deal with bone-chilling cold and a pandemic at the same time. For the last 10 odd days, the mercury in Kashmir is running several notches below zero degree Celsius. Experts in medicine say that cold weather could prove even more fatal as Covid-19 and its impact on one’s saturation levels can further aggravate in winters. According to doctors, the number of heart attack and stroke patients at Kashmir hospitals doubles in winter causing increase in number of deaths from heart attacks and strokes. Doctors say that not only elderly, but young and healthy individuals too come to hospitals with massive heart attacks and strokes. Many of them do not even make it to a hospital and die on the way. Research shows that there are up to 53 percent more heart attacks in winter than in summer. According to a study published in European Journal of Epidemiology, for every 2.9-degree Celsius decline in temperature, the number of strokes in general population goes up by 11 percent. But among those already at high risk due to raised blood pressure, smoking or being overweight the increase is 30 percent.  Frigid temperatures constrict blood vessels that increase blood pressure which makes heart attack or stroke more likely. Doctors say the blood in a human body tends to be thicker and stickier during extreme cold which makes it easier to clot. This winter things are even more challenging due to Covid-19. If one catches the virus, he, or she, according to doctors, is at an increased risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Covid-19 causes acute and severe inflammation that builds up fat deposits in the inner walls of the blood vessels. These fat deposits dislodge and get stuck in heart or brain where they block the blood flow. The lack of sunlight during winters leaves people vitamin D deficient which is associated with increased risk of dying from heart attack or stroke. Experts say that while people can’t change the weather, they can take precautions to protect themselves from cold weather. Keeping oneself warm, dressing in layers in moving out, wear a hat, gloves and scarf etc could be the methods by which a person can avoid exposing himself to the chill. However, at the same time, one should not completely limit the air passages in a room where one sits for a longer time. While heating appliances can be used in a room, the flow of fresh air should be ensured. The bottom line remains that we all should not take the pandemic for granted and assume that is over because it is not. We are seeing how a developed nation like United Kingdom is still struggling with the virus, a new strain of which has once again forced the country to announce stringent lock down considering the spike in the number of cases.