The north-westerly dry and dusty winds coming from the arid plains of Balochistan have caused a spike in respiratory problems in the port city.
Hundreds of patients with respiratory issues, some in critical condition, are reporting at government hospitals daily, doctors told The Express Tribune on Tuesday.
Health experts have warned that the dry and dusty weather can further increase the risk of allergies and other respiratory ailments in the city. People suffering from asthma and other such conditions are more vulnerable to the weather condition.
Data of three main government hospitals, Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC), Dr Ruth KM Pfau Civil Hospital and Abbasi Shaheed Hospital, reported at least 60 per cent increase in pulmonary diseases this month as compared to the last month.
Around 500 patients are reporting at the OPD of JPMC on a daily basis as against 300 on normal days.
Dust allergy is mostly affecting asthma patients and smokers who have weaker lungs, JPMC Pulmonologist Dr Saifullah Chachar said while talking to The Express Tribune.
He advised the citizens to wear facemasks when travelling during rush hours in the city.
Dr Chachar said the sufferings of asthma patients compound during the dry and dusty weather that comes in September and October every year. Sea breeze subsides and winds from arid plains increase the air pollution which in turn causes spike in dust allergy among people.
The signs of this illness are coughing, trouble in breathing, and a wheezing sound in the chest when breathing. People who smoke cigarettes, hookah, shisha or vaping are more likely to have trouble in breathing in dry weather.
Dr Chachar said people with weak lungs should take extra precautions like wearing facemask during this time of year.
Thoracic surgeons also advise patients to practice extra prudence in these situations, he added.
Some people have to travel frequently; in these cases, they should wear a mask while travelling and working at the construction sites.
The number of patients admitted to the hospital each day has increased to roughly 25, some of whom are in serious condition. Previously, 10 to 15 people with respiratory illnesses would be brought to our ward, he added.
Professor Sohail Akhtar, head of the department of chest diseases at Indus Hospital and Health Network, said that dust allergy and respiratory illnesses become more prevalent in Karachi every year in September because of the dry weather. “According to my observations,” he said, adding, “Respiratory illnesses are more common in dry weather conditions.”
He attributed the spike in respiratory ailments in dry weather to pollutants and change in temperature. Moreover, the September weather in Karachi is conducive for the growth of viruses.
Chronic conditions like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) become more prevalent in such weather, and their symptoms appear suddenly, Prof Akhtar said.
There is no effective vaccination for this viral infections, he said adding the safest is the preventative measures. People should use facemasks when outside he said and advised people not to send children to school if they show symptoms of allergy.
The health expert also warned people against taking antibiotics for a simple dust allergy, “use hot liquids when suffering from cold or flu.”
Follow the precautions that medical professionals have advised because doctors can give you prescriptions and suggestions, but it is up to you to follow them, he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 27th2023.