Whether you live in a city, or in a village, the chances are that you look forward to the advent of the monsoon. It is not simply about bringing relief from the searing heat of the summer. For the agrarian community, it is a signal to begin sowing crops. Few people dread the monsoons. Those who do probably live in areas where the monsoon spells landslides, floods, and widespread illness caused by mosquitoes, or contamination of potable water.
Ironically, not just people suffering from asthma, but also otherwise healthy people often experience respiratory distress during the monsoons. One of the major reasons for this is the high levels of humidity, especially when it is overcast, but not raining. It might make you feel that your lungs are not filling up with oxygen. If you feel that your rooms are getting too musty, or simply too humid; you could consider investing in a dehumidifier. It will save your and your loved ones significant discomfort and distress as the rooms dry out. When it rains for several days continuously, obviously simply opening out the windows will not serve the purpose.
Typically, we think of the rains washing away the impurities in the air, and cleansing the atmosphere. Unfortunately, that is no longer true. Due to higher atmospheric pollution levels, the suspended particles tend to stay in the air longer when it is humid rather than pouring. This spells trouble for asthmatic people. Those who have a compromised immune system, and those who are recovering from some major illness are particularly at risk of developing respiratory distress. If you or a loved one needs to be confined indoors for long periods, as happened during the lockdown; then you would be well advised to check the air quality index indoors too. There could be several kinds of allergens hanging in the air, making it literally difficult for you to breathe.
During the monsoons there are more pollens hanging in the air. Even those who do not have breathing problems under normal circumstances might find that they are distressed because of the allergens in the air. In particular, furnishings like sofa covers, curtains, and cushion covers catch and retain allergens. So, you need to be careful about keeping them scrupulously clean in the monsoons. Since laundering them every other day is not a practical proposition; run the vacuum cleaner on them regularly. You must air out the rooms daily.
Ensure that the air conditioner is tuned up, and cleaned before the onset of the monsoons. If it does not have an in-built filter, explore options to fit it up with a filter to keep out suspended particulate matter in the air, and other allergens. Then, your home and/or office will be your haven where you can literally breathe easily. Be watchful of the temperature you maintain in the room.
That is easier said than done. It is difficult to avoid getting wet during the monsoons. Meetings and other official, even social, commitments might compel you to step out of the home or office even when it is raining. If your best friend is getting married, you cannot stay at home just because it is raining. Therefore, take appropriate precautions like wearing a raincoat, waterproof footwear, and, if need be, keep a change of clothes in a waterproof bag. Stay warm, and if you are prone to upper and lower respiratory ailments like pneumonia, or bronchitis, or start wheezing, sneezing, or coughing at the drop of a hat, then you must be extra careful. Ensure you take different kinds of hot drinks like green tea, tea made of herb infusions, soups, broths, and even drink warm water. This will ensure that you are properly hydrated, and stay warm.
You may not realize it, but what you eat, and when you eat it, impacts your overall health. It certainly impacts your lung health. Fruits, nuts, and vegetable rich in Vitamin C, antioxidants, and Omega-3 fatty acids give your system the right means to ward off illnesses, and improve your lung health. You would be astonished to know that pumpkins, potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, and eggplants/brinjals also are rich in antioxidants. Red kidney beans (rajma) are very rich in antioxidants. Since it is not the right season for carrots, kale, broccoli, and radishes, use them only in recipes which need them. Lean meat, and sea fish contain sufficient antioxidants for you to consider adding them to your menu periodically.
Fruits like apricots, mangoes, grapes, all kinds of berries, pineapples, papayas, and bananas are rich in varied vitamins and antioxidants. Include whatever is convenient in your meals, or keep handy for snacking. Nuts like walnuts, almonds, and hazelnuts, and seeds like chia and flaxseeds are all rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. Add them as toppings of salads, sprinkle them on top of curried dishes, add to snacks you enjoy. You get taste and health benefits too. Drinking a glass of freshly squeezed lemon juice in warm water, and laced with honey on an empty not only helps shed belly fat; it keeps your lungs clear.
Among the herbs and spices which you must always have in your kitchen, especially during the monsoons, tulsi, ginger, peppercorn, garlic, and turmeric top the list. Ideally, have a spoon of juice of tulsi leaves blended with ginger juice, a few drops of lemon juice, and honey at the first hint of a sore throat, or if you get drenched in a downpour. Adding ginger paste or juliennes to different dishes, grate it into tea, or put it into the tempering of gravies. Whether you are cooking north Indian food or Chinese, garlic is part of the recipe. Both ginger and garlic are rich in antioxidants, and work wonders for lung health. If you like your food to be spicy, add freshly crushed peppercorns, or finely sliced green chilies. It adds the desired tang to the taste while helping your lungs throw out accumulated phlegm.
Many respiratory issues begin with a clogged nose. It forces you to breathe through your mouth, which could introduce allergens and pollutants into your throat, and from there to your lungs. You could try keeping your nostrils clear by using a salt solution made by boiling table salt in a base of distilled water. You could try steam inhalation, which will keep your nostrils clear, and break up mucus in the lungs, making expectoration easier. Gargle daily with warm salt water to keep your throat clear. Apart from that, exercise regularly to stay fit, and try and get some sunlight into the rooms when the sun shines through the clouds, even if it is only for a few moments. Mask up whenever you need to go out.
Takeaway: Avoiding most common respiratory problems in the monsoons is not as challenging as it might seem. If you still face some breathing issues, especially if you have chronic condition like asthma, book a consultation with one of our pulmonologists to regain your health.