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Major air pollutants, and how they damage health

The Kashmir Monitor

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The most harmful pollutants are categorised into particulate matter and chemicals and gases that enter and damage health when inhaled or ingested.

The size of the particulate matter hanging in the air is important as there is an increase in what is called the respirable size, which is of particles less than 10 micron, which is harmful because it gets lodged straight into the lungs, causing permanent damage.

“There’s long-term damage due to particulate matter that gets lodged deep inside the lungs and can cause progressive lung diseases. Even chemicals and gases are equally harmful as their side-effect is visible almost immediately,” says Dr Rajesh Chawla, consulting pulmonologist at Indraprastha Apollo hospital.

 

Chemical pollutants, also known as volatile organic compounds, coming out of coal burning sites, vehicles and stone crushing sites, if inhaled and absorbed even for a brief period, can lead to serious health conditions.

Exposure to pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds such as benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene etc. (also known as Btex) is detrimental to human lung function, prompting very serious changes to occur in the lungs. These changes indicate restriction to the lung expansion, obstruction and narrowing of the airways.

“Prolonged exposure can lead to fatal lung conditions such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD), which is a progressive lung disease that makes it hard to breathe. In next 10 years there will be a significant jump in cases of COPD, because of high pollution levels” says Dr Chawla.

One must take symptoms such as wheezing, shortness of breath, chest pain etc. seriously and if these symptoms persist even after two-three weeks then consult a doctor.
Doctors say pollution affects not just lungs but other organs such as the heart and brain over time.

“It has become usual scenario this time of the year because all the sources of pollution remain along with weather conditions that are conducive for pollutants to collect and not get dispersed,” says Dr JC Suri, former head of pulmonary medicine, Safdarjung Hospital.

“Addressing the source is critical in tackling the problem otherwise nothing significant will change,” he adds.

Major air pollutants

Carbon Monoxide (CO), Sulfur Dioxide (SO2), Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2), Ozone (O3), Suspended Particulate Matter (PM) etc.

Source: fuel combustion, vehicular emissions, electric equipment, cosmetics/toiletries, dust, soot, varnish, cigarettes etc.

Carbon Monoxide(CO)

Health effects:

a) Short-term: Headache, nausea, dizziness and anxiety

b) Long-term: Reduced mental alertness, cardiovascular diseases, heart attack, impaired fetal development. In higher concentration it can even cause death.


Sulfur Dioxide(SO2)

Health effects:

a)Short-term: Eye irritation, wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, sore throat and nose irritation

b)Long-term: Asthma, chronic bronchitis and Lung damage

Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2)

Health effects:

a)Short-term: Susceptible to respiratory infections, cough, chest pain, difficulty in breathing

b)Long-term: Asthma and chronic bronchitis

Ozone(O3)

Health effects:

a)Short-term: Eye and throat irritation, cough, respiratory tract infections, breathing difficulty

b)Long-term: Asthma, lung damage and even premature death

Fine particles— less than 10 micron, and very fine particles— less than 2.5 micron, of soot, dust, or other matter that includes tiny droplets of liquids heavily pollutes air

Health effects:

a)Short-term: Eye and nose irritation, sore throat and cough

b)Long-term: Asthma, chronic bronchitis, lung damage, cardiovascular disease, heavy metal poisoning and cancer


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Health

Hepatitis A Causes and Symptoms

The Kashmir Monitor

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Generally speaking, hepatitis A is more common in parts of the planet that are developing. It’s for the fact that sanitation and food handling practices are by and large poor. However, medical experts say that living in developed countries can also put you at risk of having hepatitis A, but it’s really a rare occurrence.

Just like what’s mentioned earlier, hepatitis A is caused by the hepatitis A virus or HAV. It can be spread around by someone who has hepatitis A because he or she is a carrier of the virus behind it. It is said that a person with hepatitis A is most infectious about 2 weeks before he or she begins to experience signs and symptoms.

Here are some of the ways that hepatitis A is spread around:

 

Consumption of food that is prepared by a person who has hepatitis A. This is most especially true if he or she has not properly washed his or her hands.

Drinking of water that is contaminated with the hepatitis A virus.

Intake of raw or undercooked seafood obtained from contaminated water.

Close contact with someone who has hepatitis A. This includes having sexual intercourse with an infected person, especially when the rectal or anal area has been touched with the fingers, mouth or tongue.

Using illegal drugs, especially when paraphernalia contaminated with the hepatitis A virus are used.

Symptoms

Medical experts say that it may take a while before the various signs and symptoms associated with hepatitis A show up. They say that someone may experience them about 4 weeks after getting infected. It’s even possible for someone with hepatitis A to not experience any sign and symptom at all.

Some of the initial signs and symptoms of hepatitis A include:

Tiredness and malaise
Achy muscles and joints
Pain in the upper right section of the abdomen
Loss of appetite
Mild fever
Headaches
Sore throat
Diarrhea or constipation
Hives or raised rash that’s itchy

These initial signs and symptoms associated with hepatitis A can last anywhere from a few days only to a couple of weeks. Afterwards, as the infection of the liver progresses, the following may be experienced by the individual:

Jaundice, which is the yellowing of the skin as well as the whites of the eyes (sclera)

Pale colored stools
Dark colored urine
Skin itching

Tenderness and swelling of the upper right section of the abdomen

Although it rarely happens, hepatitis A can cause liver failure. When such develops, the person who is infected may experience severe vomiting, frequent bruising, bleeding of the nose and gums, drowsiness and confusion.

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Health

Busting myths around blood donation

The Kashmir Monitor

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As per the World Health Organisation (WHO) norms, ideally, one per cent of the total population should regularly donate blood to meet the requirements, which is anywhere between 1% and 3% of country’s population that would require blood in a year.

Contrary to the myth about blood donations making a person weak or anaemic, the body replenishes the lost blood in a matter of a few days, say experts.

“A healthy bone marrow makes a constant supply of red cells, plasma and platelets, so there is no question of becoming weak, much less anaemic. It is a myth and should not deter people from donating blood,” says Dr RK Singal, chairman, internal medicine department, BLK super-speciality Hospital.

 

The donors can give either whole blood or specific blood components, as there is sophisticated equipment available these days that extract relevant components from blood and the rest of the blood can be transfused back to the donor.

As per the World Health Organisation (WHO) norms, ideally, one per cent of the total population should regularly donate blood to meet the requirements, which is anywhere between 1% and 3% of country’s population that would require blood in a year.

About 65% of India’s population is young and if this section donates blood regularly, chances of the country facing blood shortage will be remote. Hence, there is all the more reason for people, especially youngsters, to come forward and be regular blood donors.

How to prepare

Have enough fruit juice and water in the night and morning before you donate

Have a full meal 3 hours before donation; never on an empty stomach

Have some rest for about 10-15 minutes after donation

Have some snacks or a juice with high sugar content after donation

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Health

Erectile dysfunction’s connection with lifestyle

The Kashmir Monitor

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By Dr Anjani Kumar Agrawal

healthy-lifestyle-can-reverse-effects-of-hypertensionAll over the world, but perhaps more so in India, men are embarrassed to admit that they may have a problem getting or keeping an erection — a condition known as erectile dysfunction (ED).

All over the world, but perhaps more so in India, men are embarrassed to admit that they may have a problem getting or keeping an erection — a condition known as erectile dysfunction (ED). From my research, I have found a strong link between ED and stress. Other major causes include smoking, drinking, diabetes, hypertension or high blood pressure and cholesterol levels. My advice to these patients is — do not get even more stressed over this situation. Instead, focus on taking the right medication and making some changes to your lifestyle, so you can once again enjoy a satisfactory sexual life.

 

DIAGNOSIS OF ED

We normally diagnose ED and its underlying causes by asking the patient a few questions about his medical and sexual history. This is sometimes done by sharing a questionnaire with the patient. The questions that we ask are designed to help us understand the cause of ED in the particular patient.

We also do a physical exam, ask for certain blood tests to rule out other medical conditions responsible for erectile dysfunction, and recommend imaging tests (if required) to determine whether the person is physically able to have an erection or not.

SHORT-TERM SOLUTION, LONG-TERM CURE

Underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and hypercholesterolaemia (high cholesterol levels) can cause ED. In these cases, ED can be reversed once the patient starts treatment.

In my experience, many men suffer from ED because of work stress, family pressure and anxiety. So, changes in lifestyle with regular exercise, yoga, abstaining from alcohol and smoking, and proper counselling help in treating ED. Along with this, medicines for ED are usually prescribed for about 3 to 6 months by which time lifestyle changes start to take effect and the patient is physically and mentally healthier, which helps resolve the problem.

An estimated 16% to 25% of men experience ED at some point in their lives. I would urge them not to be embarrassed about it. Seek medical help from a urologist or andrologist; get the necessary advice/medication; and go on to enjoy a healthy, fulfilling sexual life.

The author of this article is Dr Anjani Kumar Agrawal, head, andrology, department of urology sciences, Max Smart Super Speciality Hospital, Saket

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