There is no training or fellowship offered in India for studying allergies, said R.Sridharan, Consultant Allergist – Asthma Specialist. “Many doctors approach asthma as a respiratory condition but I approach it as an expression of an allergy in the respiratory system,” he added.

Addressing asthma as an allergy helps find the root cause of the problem, said Dr.Sridharan, who was speaking at an awareness programme at P.S. Senior Secondary School on Tuesday. The event was ‘Breathe Free', a public service initiative by Cipla which was an appeal to schoolchildren to avoid or reduce bursting firecrackers and instead light candles this Deepavali.

“The smoke from the crackers emit harmful gases such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide which irritates the delicate airways of the lungs and aggravates the condition of people with Asthma,” he said. The students were also shown videos on global warming, increasing air pollution, passive smoking and the importance of preserving trees.

For eleventh-standard student, M.Sivarangan, who suffers from wheezing, such initiatives are relevant. “I have difficulty breathing during Deepavali and I ask my friends to avoid bursting crackers. Also, some of them get hurt while bursting crackers,” he said.

Dr.Sridharan also spoke about the conditions in factories in which fireworks are manufactured and said it was not just for health reasons, but also social reasons that change needs to be brought about. This awareness was voiced by students such as M.K.Udayakumar who said children his age are employed to make fireworks in factories.

S.Jayanthi, a biology teacher, said the children will take home the message to their parents about the ill-effects of fireworks. “After such awareness programmes, the craze for purchasing crackers will come down,” she said. However, while students from younger classes understood the reasons for not bursting crackers they were reluctant to give it up. “I have already bought crackers for this year, I will stop from next year,” said a little boy.

But those in the higher classes recognised the need for such changes. “When we were younger, we used to find it very exciting to burst crackers but now we understand how it affects not only us but the people around us,” said S.Jagadeesan, a student in class XI.