COVID-19 Threat Forces Kashmir's COPD Patients To Stay Back This Winter. Experts Sound Caution

An elderly man holds Kanger in Pattan area on the outskirts of Srinagar. Photo: Mubashir Khan / GK

As the COVID-19 threat continues, the Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and asthma patients in Kashmir have been forced to stay back in the Valley this winter, exposing them to potential complications due to the freezing cold.

As per various studies, J&K is one among few north Indian states which report COPD figures equal or greater than 4,750 per 100,000 population — the highest across the country.

With the onset of winters in Kashmir, every year hundreds of COPD patients from different parts of the Valley travel to places like Jammu, Delhi and Mumbai to escape the nail biting cold with temperatures plummeting at least seven degrees below the freezing point.

“I have been visiting Jammu during winter for the last twenty years but this year I have decided to stay in Kashmir because of Covid-19 outbreak,” said Abdul Rehman, 70, a resident of Maharaj Gunj area of downtown Srinagar.

“It becomes very difficult for me to stay in Kashmir during the harsh winters as my chest feels like it is contracting but I shall have to compromise this year,” he said.

“I used to take my grandfather to Jammu during every winter for the last eight years but this year we have decided to stay here only because the fear of COVID has gripped everyone especially those suffering from pulmonary diseases,” said Azhar Bashir, a resident of Dal Gate, Srinagar.

As mercury takes a dip in Kashmir, people usually carry kangris under their pheran (a long woollen cloak) to keep themselves warm. Photo: Mubashir Khan / GK

But with the temperature dipping and people taking out kangris and room heaters, experts have sounded caution, suggesting that the COPD patients must avoid the traditional firepots to warm themselves and use rubber water bottles, instead.

Dr Parvaiz Koul, Head of Internal and Pulmonary Medicine at Sher-I -Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) Srinagar told Greater Kashmir that due to regular power cuts during winters in Kashmir COPD patients switch to usage of Kangris. “These patients must not use Kangris to warm themselves and instead use rubber bottles or sit in Hammam, if there is one in the house,” he said.

He said it is also important for such patients to avoid passive smoking. “These people must not stay in a single room for too long and must take influenza vaccines. Patients with extreme conditions must use oxygen concentrators,” he said.

Dr Koul added: “They must avoid going out if not necessary as the air in Kashmir during winters is full of fumes due to burning of wood, kerosene and charcoals.”

Dr Saleem Khan, HoD Social and Preventive Medicine at Government Medical College (GMC) Srinagar, said COPD patients in Kashmir must keep the room they are in ventilated because the amount of carbon dioxide increases due to heating appliances and presence of humans in the room. “It could lead to suffocation to the patients,” he said.

“Heating appliances like Bhukhari and Kangris must be avoided at all cost by these patients as the burning of fuel in these appliances result in fumes which is the last thing a COPD patient must inhale,” he said.