COPD in Covid-19 era: Smokers, beware!

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By Puja Gupta

New Delhi– With festivals and the wedding season in the offing, we might witness a significant spike in respiratory diseases. People are moving out more frequently now, which has also resulted in a rapid increase in new Covid-19 cases.

One of the more progressive lung diseases is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, commonly known as COPD. It causes airflow obstruction, impacting a person’s ability to get enough oxygen into their lungs and move it through their body, says Dr Sibasish Dey, Head, Medical Affairs, Asia and Latin America, ResMed.

“As of today, it affects 15-20 percent of the global population aged over 50 years, and there are over 65 million people that are living with moderate to severe COPD in the world as per the World Health Organisation,” he tells IANSlife.

Dr. Dey shares that combined with the rising pollution levels in various parts of the country and the ongoing pandemic, the respiratory systems of people, are under attack. However, one of the most significant triggers of COPD flare-ups in the body is smoking.

In India, smoking behaviour is varied, with Indians consuming tobacco in different forms such as cigarette, bidi, hookah, or chillum. There is enough evidence to suggest that smoking is by far the most common risk factor for the development of COPD.

An estimate says that in 10 years, 50 percent of smokers will eventually develop COPD, Dr Dey says. “As winter approaches, we see a significant drop in the AQI (Air Quality Index) in different parts of the country. This issue is aggravated double-fold due to the ongoing pandemic and unhealthy habits like tobacco consumption, including second-hand smoke. Like never before, our respiratory systems have become vulnerable, and smoking cessation is crucial to control the triggers of COPD and to live comfortably.”

Formulation and subsequent execution of the National Programme for Prevention and Control of Cancer, Diabetes, CVD and Stroke (NPCDCS), has tried to address this enormous public health problem. However, with the advent of Covid-19, this challenge is manifested in a many-fold way for the Indian government, he says.

A systematic analysis published in PLOS ONE journal has said that COVID-19 patients requiring ICU admission with co-existing COPD had a 63 percent risk of severe disease and a 60 percent risk of mortality in comparison to critically ill patients without COPD, who had only a 33.4 percent risk of severe disease and 55 percent risk of mortality respectively, he points out.

“Moreover, the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD), which is an international body for COPD management also recognizes that people with COPD are amongst the worst affected by COVID-19.”

Hence, this year, GOLD decided for the theme of World COPD Day to be “Living Well with COPD – Everybody, Everywhere”. With the theme, ResMed also highlights that there are many ways to live well and actively. The evolution of various breathing techniques and non-invasive ventilators has made it possible to undergo treatment and oxygen therapy from the comfort of home, and that too at lesser than half the cost of a hospital ICU set up.

Dr. Dey says that today digital healthcare solutions can genuinely help a COPD patient to live comfortably, anywhere, as he undergoes treatment. He points out few ways of managing COPD or being cognizant of risk factors are:

* Quit smoking and keep the home smoke-free.

* Visit the doctor regularly. Let them know if any of the symptoms change over time.

* Protect from germs that can affect the lungs and consult with the doctor about which vaccines to get, including for flu (influenza) and pneumonia.

* Prepare for disease flare-ups. Know when and where to seek help and get emergency care if you have severe symptoms, such as trouble catching your breath or talking. (IANS)

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