As winter sets in, the air near the ground cools rapidly and meets moist air, leading to the formation of fog. Currently, northern India, including Delhi, is engulfed in dense fog, nearing zero visibility. Apart from the increased risk of accidents and general discomfort caused by delayed flights and trains, fog can also have a physical impact on people's health. We spoke to Dr Akshay Budhraja, Senior Consultant and HOD-Respiratory and Sleep Medicine, Aakash Healthcare, New Delhi, to understand the same.
Health Effects Of Fog
“Fog, in general, is dangerous only in terms of visibility for drivers, leading to accidents,” said Dr Budhraja.
But when it is mixed with pollutants, it forms a dense layer called smog, which is a big health hazard, he explained, adding that while fog usually disappears after sunrise, smog stays throughout the day at a breathable level.
In 2013, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that particle pollution can even cause lung cancer, which is one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths worldwide.
Moreover, exposure to smog can trigger asthma attacks in patients and cause coughing and breathing difficulties, according to Dr Budhraja. It can lead to eye irritation, skin diseases, throat irritation and infection, rhinitis, sinusitis, bronchitis, and flare-ups of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
He said, “It [fog] closes the lungs' defence mechanism, leading to lung infection, i.e., pneumonia, and chronic exposure is linked to various cancers as well.”
Is It Safe To Exercise Outdoors?
Amid dense fog, the probability of smog levels is also high, which could be dangerous for your health. This is why exercising outdoors in such conditions should be avoided by everyone, advised Dr Budhraja.
Instead, he recommended working out indoors but also cautioned against indoor air pollutants, advising taking care of indoor air quality by using indoor plants and air purifiers if needed.
Who Should Take More Caution?
People who are acutely exposed to smog can experience symptoms like coughing, dirty-coloured phlegm production, throat pain, and breathing difficulty.
Some of the people who may be more at risk of such ailments include very young children, the elderly, and those with comorbidities like Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD), asthma, and COPD.
Dr Budhraja cautioned further, saying, “Fog, chilly weather, and air pollution are a deadly combination, which poses a threat to every person and increases the risk of sudden myocardial infarction (heart attack), stroke, pneumonia, and acute attack of asthma/COPD.”