Why We Need A Noise-Free, Pollution-Free Diwali

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Diwali – The Festival of Lights is often marred by excessive noise and air pollution that affects the health of many, especially senior citizens. We speak to experts to know what you can do to avoid it.

Diwali is just around the corner and while many eagerly await the festival of light throughout the year, it is just not about meeting family and friends and exchanging gifts or indulging in delicious festive palates and lighting up the house. Diwali also comes with its share of concern — crackers usually cause a spike in pollution levels, both noise and air, which can have an ill-effect on the health of elders.

According to Dr Sunil Kumar K, Consultant – Interventional Pulmonology, Aster CMI Hospital, Bangalore, the loud noises and sparks from firecrackers can affect the ears, throat, lungs and eyes of senior citizens and can worsen health conditions of seniors who are already suffering from breathing-related issues and heart disorders. “It is always best for seniors as well as infants to keep away from bursting crackers during Diwali celebrations,” he says.

Noise and air pollution cause a whole lot of health hazards specifically among the elderly population as they are more vulnerable. Constant high levels of noise exposure can cause stress-related illness, high blood pressure, sleep disorders, speech disturbances, depression and lost productivity. Just before the Diwali celebration is about to begin, it is important for you to know the different ways by which your health can get affected due to noise and air pollution.

How noise pollution affects seniors

Hearing impairment: Noise-induced hearing loss is considered to be one of the most common health effects on seniors. Such impairment may be associated with abnormal loudness perception, distortion and tinnitus (inflammation of the ear). It can eventually result in loneliness, depression, impaired speech discrimination and more.

Interference with spoken communication: Excessive exposure to loud bursting of crackers may disturb the ability to comprehend normal speech and cause personal disabilities and behavioural changes among seniors, including problems with concentration, fatigue, uncertainty, interpersonal relationships and stress reactions.

Sleep disturbances: While adequate sleep is beneficial for older adults, loud firecrackers may cause sleep disturbances that can lead to mood fluctuations, fatigue, depression and other long-term effects on health and wellbeing.

Cardiovascular issues: Noise can temporarily and even permanently affect the nervous system. Noise acts as a biologic stressor that increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Disturbances in mental health: Noise plays an active role in intensifying and accelerating latent mental disorders like anxiety, stress, nervousness, nausea, headaches, emotional instability, neurosis, hysteria and psychosis. The seniors with underlying depression and those suffering from dementia get worse due to exposure to loud noise.

Not just loud noise, bursting firecrackers leads to a significant increase in the pollutants in the air, causing severe damage to elderly health.

How air pollution affects seniors

Increases risk of heart diseases, stroke: Air pollution can be directly linked to heart diseases, strokes and may also increase the risk of blocked arteries, known as atherosclerosis.

Leads to breathing trouble: As the immune system of senior citizens gets weaker, they become more vulnerable to developing respiratory issues from the pollutants that get added to the air after bursting crackers and cannot fight the contaminants. this leads to severe cases of asthma, breathing problems and other pulmonary disorders among seniors. For seniors suffering from some kind of respiratory conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD), exposure to air pollution not only worsens the condition but also increases the risk of lung cancer.

Causes vision problem: The air pollutants, dust and smoke increase due to bursting crackers thereby making it difficult for seniors to see properly. It also causes itchy eyes, sore throat and skin rashes.

Dr S Manohar, Director, Internal Medicine, Sakra World Hospital, Bangalore, says: “Elders are more vulnerable to noise pollution as they lack in coping mechanisms due to slower mental processing. Increased air pollution contributes to higher mortality, increased hospital admission and a rise in emergency room visits among the elderly mainly due to respiratory issues like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. This is why it is essential to take the necessary precautions to stay safe.”

Tips to cope with noise and air pollution during Diwali
* Protect your eyes with goggles and avoid standing too close to explosive crackers

* Use cotton buds/a scarf/ soundproof earplugs to safeguard yourself from loud noise
If you are close to the fireworks, use an appropriate mask to filter the air you breathe and keep inhalers on hand if you are prone to asthma attacks

* If you live in an area where the neighbourhood is likely to break out into a loud Diwali celebration, it would be ideal to plan a vacation to the outskirts of the city or to a remote place where it is guaranteed to be noise-free.

* In case it is difficult for you to avoid the loud noise, ensure you have your medications on hand to help control any unexpected health emergencies and ensure you have access to your doctor.

* Use HEPA filters and air purifiers to keep indoors pollution-free.
The civic agencies need to understand the increase in the vulnerability of the elders to pollution and ensure to provide a clean environment devoid of particulate matter, noxious substances and loud noise during Diwali.

Taking the above precautions can help you have a safe, healthy and happy Diwali with friends and family.

About Author

Sreemoyee Chatterjee

Sreemoyee Chatterjee is the content head of Sliver Talkies. A curious and talkative storyteller, she loves spending time with and working for the older adults and getting the best for them. Sreemoyee has served as a correspondent and on-field reporter for 4 years. A classical dancer and thespian by passion, she spends her leisure by writing poetry, scripts for stage theatres and listening to countryside music.