The effect of air pollution on our lungs depends on the type and mix of pollutants, their concentration and how much gets into our lungs. Initially, it may cause an irritating cough and perhaps a burning sensation in the eyes. If not addressed early, symptoms may get exacerbated and lead to breathing difficulty or bronchial asthma.
General tips: Avoid direct exposure to air pollution, especially on days when the Air Quality Index (AQI) shows an increased accumulation of air pollutants.
Consume a healthy, balanced diet to strengthen your immunity. Eat warm, home-cooked food instead of eating out. Incorporate herbs like turmeric, pepper, ginger and home spices in your cooking.
Keep yourself hydrated by drinking more water. Ideally, drink warm water and avoid refrigerated water. Consume fresh vegetables and fruit juices.
Add a little pepper/ginger and some basil (tulsi) leaves to your regular cup of tea.
Eat fresh fruits rich in Vitamin C like sweet lime (mosambi), oranges and amalaki (Indian gooseberry).
Avoid consuming curds/banana/ice-cream and any heavy to digest food after sunset. Eat dinner at least two to three hours before bedtime and have a light dinner of hot soups and easily digestible food.
Try to avoid deep-fried food stuff / processed food / excessively sour food.
Practise simple breathing exercises such as pranayama, kapalbhati and jal neti to combat the ill-effects of pollution.
Avoid outdoor exercises. Spend the early morning and evening indoors.
Prevention: One of the simplest and most practical remedies is to apply a little cow’s ghee in each nostril every day in the morning before venturing out of the house and at bedtime. This helps restrict the entry of pollutants into the lower respiratory tract.
- Surgical and comfort masks don’t provide adequate respiratory protection. Use the right mask to protect yourself from polluted air.
- Place some indoor plants like aloe vera, bamboo, palms or money plants inside your home. Air purifiers can be installed.
- Chewing about 10-12 leaves of basil (tulsi) daily helps to keep all respiratory problems at bay. Neem and guduchi (giloy) leaves also help to improve immunity.
- Turmeric and honey: Take half a teaspoonful of turmeric powder and mix it with an equal quantity of honey. Have this before going to bed. This combination is a time-tested solution for building strength and immunity. An alternative is half a teaspoonful of turmeric mixed in 150 ml of hot/warm milk in the morning.
- Ginger, basil and honey: Half a tablespoonful of juice extracted from basil leaves mixed with an equal quantity of honey and 10 drops of fresh ginger juice can be consumed, preferably on an empty stomach, in the morning. A pinch of fine powder of pippali (Indian long pepper) will enhance the potency of this mixture.
- Ghee: It contains omega 3 fatty acids that support our immune system. Ghee is also a rich source of antioxidants. Including about three to four teaspoonfuls of cow’s ghee in the diet is sure to boost immunity.
Treatment: Inhalation of steam can help decongest nasal congestion or phlegm accumulation in the chest. Plain steam inhalation is helpful. It helps to keep the nasal passages clear and may help to reduce breathlessness. You can add a few drops of eucalyptus oil.
Crush one or two betel leaves and 8-10 basil leaves and boil in about 150 ml of water for five minutes. Strain and add a teaspoonful of honey. This freshly prepared decoction may be taken once or twice daily for instant relief from breathlessness/chest congestion.
One teaspoonful of Sitopaladi churna (from any reputed pharmacy) mixed with a sufficient quantity of honey (in case of productive cough) or ghee (in case of dry/irritating cough) can be taken twice/thrice daily. Ideally, take a small part of this mixture repeatedly as and when there is a bout of coughing.
One teaspoonful of Taleesapatradi churna (from any reputed pharmacy) can also be taken with honey repeatedly when there is productive cough/congestion. In addition, 15 ml of Kanakasava or Vasarishta (Kottakkal/ Baidyanath) with equal quantity of warm water or Vasaka 2 tablets (Himalaya) can be taken thrice daily after food for faster relief from breathlessness.
Bresol tablet (2-2-2) or syrup (2-2-2 tsp) (Himalaya) helps relieve nasal and bronchial congestion. Bresol NS nasal drops are useful for nasal congestion.
Dr Srikanth is a postgraduate in Ayurveda and has been a consulting physician for the past 19 years. He is currently National Manager, Scientific Services, at The Himalaya Drug Company