Mask, the saviour of lungs

Wearing protective gear will help reduce lung diseases caused by air pollution, dust and occupational hazards

Changes in the climate, air pollution and occupational health hazards are some of the causes for the increase in lung diseases among people, say pulmonologists. However, without a registry on the causes, there are no yardsticks to measure what kind of disease is affecting the majority.

But cases of lung diseases caused by exposure to environmental pollution, dust or other occupational hazards can be limited when protective gears like masks are used, say experts.

At workplace

A mask would make a big difference to the health of people who are exposed to certain pollutants on a regular basis, like those working in prawn-peeling industry, masala making and packaging industry, granite quarries, plywood industries, furniture shops and so on. The number of people reaching the outpatient departments for treatments had definitely gone up, said Dr. Sophia Philip, president of the Cochin Thoracic Society.

“At our end, we do help them understand why it is important to wear a mask at their workplace. There are industries which do supply protective gear, but there is no insistence on wearing them,” said Dr. Philip, assistant professor, Government Medical College, Ernakulam.

Most industries do not educate the workers on the need for wearing a protective gear, she added. Ten years into working in a furniture shop or prawn peeling unit, people might complain of lung diseases.

Exposure to pollutants over a long period affect a person’s health. Those who are genetically prone to obstructive lung diseases like asthama could be affected by such exposure within a couple of years or less, said Dr. Philip.

Prevents transmission

Wearing a mask manages to limit exposure as well as transmission of diseases. Patients are advised on the need to follow basic hygiene practices such as using a towel during coughing and sneezing as diseases like TB could infect those in close contact in family too, she added.

As most of the respiratory diseases have similar symptoms, like cough, sputum, running nose, wheezing, a history of the disease bouts would be a great guide for the doctor to arrive at the correct diagnosis, said Dr. Anitha Thilakan, assistant professor, Ernakulam Medical College.

Treatments and further probe usually depend on how long the person had been suffering from the symptoms, she added.

“Queries on working atmosphere are important as it give an idea about exposure to any particular allergen or pollutant,” said Dr. Philip.


Lifestyle is yet another aspect that could aggravate a condition, especially if one is a smoker or is exposed to passive smoking.

Viral infections are more prevalent when smog is in the atmosphere. The smog droplets settle down near the inhalation area and tend to spread the bacteria or the virus very fast. The doctors prescribe annual vaccination for those who are prone to infections on a regular basis, said Dr. Philip.


Pointing out how dosage of drugs and the kind of drugs differ for different diseases, Dr. Thilakan said there are patients who buy drugs over-the-counter for what they suspect was similar to an infection earlier. Some could be using an old prescription too. This is a dangerous trend, she said.

Issues related to climate change also cause infections among people, she said.

The kind of climate in a season was known earlier, but now it is varying, she said. People are caught between a mix of a chill and heat in night time and daytime weather. Spells of rain, sunshine and chill had specific seasonal durations earlier that cautioned people on their daily routines. There is little difference now, said Dr. Thilakan.

Shyama Rajagopal

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Printable version | Feb 28, 2020 8:12:55 PM |

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