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Along with the festivities, firecrackers, and food, Diwali brings with it a host of health issues. Here’s how you can steer clear of these.

According to an estimate by the Union ministry of environment and forests, the air pollution across the country spikes to five to eight times above the safe standard and the noise pollution is almost tripled during Diwali. Aside from the festivities, Diwali comes with possible health issues — gorging on all the decadent food can cause serious acidity — that need to be taken care of. We speak to some experts to understand the possible risks and the ways to minimise them.

Breathing gets difficult

Dr. Arvind Yadav, Pathology expert with the PDC Health in Airoli Navi Mumbai, says that the festival sees a huge spike in the emission of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and sulfur dioxide. “This leads to multiple respiratory illnesses every Diwali. On an average, 60,000 tons of toxic gases are released into the atmosphere,” he says. Those with chronic obstructive lung disease and asthma can experience acute exacerbation. “Even those without any respiratory problems are prone to allergic respiratory problems.

According to expert, the season sees a sudden surge of respiratory problems for another simple reason that the weather becomes warm again after the rains. “There are many viruses that thrive in this weather. So, the asthmatic and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease patients are prone to suffer from respiratory tract infections,” he explains.

To minimise the risks, the expert suggests measures like keeping the windows closed during the season. “Also, one should try and be in an air-conditioned atmosphere where the pollution is minimised. People should also avoid early morning walks for a few days as there is a lot of smog hung in the air.

Expert recommends wearing surgical masks up to N95 type to avoid inhaling polluted air. “People with already existing respiratory problems can even consider locating to a quieter and cleaner place where the hazards are likely to be low,” he says.

Celebration without sweets and festival special dishes our Diwali seems to be dull and filled like incomplete. “We Indians show our love and affection through food and sometimes it’s associated with pampering and happiness but at the same time, it is likely to lead to unrequired weight gain.

Diabetic and blood pressure patients should take extra precaution because many tend to eat lots of sweets and fried items during the festival. “It doesn’t mean that one should avoid every special food meant for the occasion but moderation is key.

Dr. Arvind Yadav strongly recommends protecting yourself with antioxidants as air pollution bombards on our body with toxic substances “Our immune system starts working against pollution because of which the immune cells produce free radicals and it causes inflammation and might lead to diseases. Antioxidants protect our body from free radicals and harmful effects of pollution. Amla, oranges, sweet lime, and pomegranate are the great source of antioxidants and reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases and asthma. Make sure to eat plenty of fruits of all colors and having a lot of fluid to keep yourself well-hydrated during this festival.

Expert suggests including herbs and spices like turmeric, a great antioxidant that has a tremendous healing power. The expert also advises against having hydrogenated sweets as they increase bad cholesterol and attack your tonsils.

Dr. Arvind reminds that it’s important to limit the intake of sugar, carbohydrates, and fats as overeating them can increase the risk of triglycerides going up and other lipid abnormalities. According to expert, highly saturated food such as sweets consumed during this period can increase cardiac problems and aggravate health issues in people with hypertension and diabetes.

All that noise is dangerous

The sound of 140 decibels of noise 85 decibels sufficient or above can damage hearing aid temporarily or permanently for the lifetime and limited period. “The high decibel noise caused by thousands of firecrackers not only creates problems in hearing and tinnitus (ringing in the ear) but also causes uneasiness in heart patients or those who have hypertension. Many healthy people experience high blood pressure and sleep disturbances during this season, a city-based ear, nose, throat expert. Unfortunately, except for staying indoors, using earplugs and keeping away from places where firecrackers are burnt, there is little you can do to avoid all the noise.

No more peace

High levels of suspended particulate matter can lead to serious headaches and abridged mental perspicacity. “People with co-existing illnesses such as heart, lung or central nervous system diseases often complain of anxiety, irritability, mental disturbances and nervousness during this festival,” Expert recommends that you keep the numbers of emergency care and ambulances handy so they can easily receive help if the need arises.

Matters of the heart

Dr. Arvind says that firecrackers cause a lot of problems in elderly people, people with hypertension and heart problems.

“Such patients don’t get proper sleep because of the high decibel crackers. There are many patients who report high blood pressure in this season. Elderly people and heart patients can get angina (severe pain in the chest) as they have the weak heart and people with high blood pressure are also vulnerable to strokes,” he cautions.

Expert suggests heart patients should talk to their cardiologists in advance and check out if they require any alteration in their ongoing medication regimen if there is a history of extensive blasting of crackers in their areas.

“In some cases, if such patients report sleep disturbances and anxiety for quite a few days — mild sedatives can be prescribed on a short-term basis to help them sleep and feel better,” he also says.

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