The word “Smog” is a blend of the words “smoke” and “fog” that refers the smoky fog that we see in winters. Smog is a dense layer of stagnant air that forms near ground-level when air pollution is high. It is generally formed when nitrogenous pollutants in the air react with volatile organic compounds.

Smog has been a global issue since the 20th century, but the severity of the problem we see today is unprecedented as WHO estimates over 3 million deaths per year due to outdoor air pollution.

While there is a little to no official data on the human and economic costs of smog in Pakistan, some research does provide insight. Lancet Journal estimates 135,000 deaths a year due to various types of pollutions and a reduction of 5 years in average life expectancy in Pakistan.

According to a World Bank study: ‘CleaningPakistan’s Air: Policy Options to Address the Cost of Outdoor Air Pollution’,air pollution is causing more than 20,000 premature deaths among adults andover 5,000,000 cases of illness among children each year.

The economic burden of air pollution was 1.1 percent of the GDP in 2005, which is now estimated to be between 4 and 5 percent.

Health Hazards of Smog

Exposure to smog can lead to several medical and health issues; however, the type and scalevary from person to person. Some people are more sensitive to the effects ofsmog; like, those with existing lung, heart, chest, and respiratory problems.

According to WHO, air pollution can damage lungs and trigger asthmatic attacks, particularlyin people with pre-existing symptoms. In pregnant mothers, exposure to pollutedair leads to premature or abnormal deliveries.

In addition to this, smog can lead to the following complications:

  • Irritation in the eyes, nose, and throat: This is the most common problem because ozone (when inhaled with air) inflames the nasal cavities and the throat, causing irritation. It also results in oversecretion of tears, leading to severe coughing, sneezing, and soggy eyes.
  • Cardiovascular problems: A high level of smog exposure can also trigger cardiovascular problems like strokes and arrhythmia. This is particularly common in the elders and people with heart problems.
  • Chest Pain: Smog can also cause chest related problems like heart-burning, wheezing, shortness of breath and other chest pains.

How to Protect Yourself from Smog?

Air quality index is one of the main measures of pollution in the air. PMI 2.5 index of 60is considered safe and above it is considered unhealthy. If the index is above the safe limit in your city, you are recommended to take the following precautionary steps.

1. Keep Yourself Updated: Get regular updates about the existing weather conditions in your city. You can easily find weather and air quality updates through sites like aqicn.org and popular weather apps.

2. Limit Outdoor Activities: If the air quality forecast is poor, try to reduce outdoor activities. It’s better to stay indoors and keep the windows closed.

3. Take Care of Kids: Limit outdoor activities of the kids, except school. Experts at oladoc estimate that kids with regular outdoor activities during smog are 2-3 times more likely to develop asthma and chest problems.

4. Wear Masks: If the indoor stay is not possible for some reason,wear a high-quality PMI 2.5 protection mask when you go outside. It’ll filter out the harmful particles.

5. No Heavy Exercise: Avoid anything that puts extra pressure on your respiratory system. Exercises such as running, cycling etc. should be avoided as they often result in rapid breathing. This is particularly important if you have a respiratory problem or have a residence in a densely populated area.

6. Avoid Self Medication: This is probably the most important of all. You must avoid self-medication irrespective of your medical problem. In case of any health issues during smog, make sure to find a Pulmonologist or medical specialist, and seek professional advice.

7. Be a Responsible Citizen: Play your role as a responsible In case have your own emissions to a minimum. Keep your indoor air clean by using air purifying systems and avoid heavy reliance on cars, coal, and anything that could emit harmful particles.