Need a breath of fresh air – use a mask, not a dupatta!

In India, we are used to dust in the air. In fact, I have often heard people say that Indian children have better immunity since they are raised in an environment where dust and bacteria are common. Every season change brings with it new ailments and entire family is struck by the peril and require doctoral visits and antibiotic courses to get through.

Recently, I had a scratchy throat and frequent bouts of coughing. I resisted going to the doctor and relied on self-medication. But the stubborn cough refused to go away. At lunch with a friend, I could barely speak. Realizing that it was serious, I consulted a doctor. Seeing my condition, she was furious at me for having ignored the cough. She said it was allergic cough and the constant friction had swollen the throat and was breeding an infection. On inquiring the cause, she categorically said, “Air pollutants”. She further went on explain that people don’t realize how contaminated air can lead to serious problems. We are quite nonchalant about this topic given our mind-set that pollution is a given and a little bit didn’t hurt anyone – on the contrary, it builds immunity! Hence, everyone is fine with taking medication when an ailment resulting from pollution hits them but no one bothers taking precautions proactively. She recommended I stay indoors for some time and think of preventive measures I could take.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that air pollution is responsible for about 6.5 million premature or early — deaths every year. Morbid as it may sound, it gives us a sense of the magnitude of the problem. In India, we often see people placing a handkerchief or dupatta over their nose/mouth as protection when they go out. I pulled out my favourite pink dupatta from the cupboard and placed it over my mouth before stepping out, but it was very uncomfortable. I gave up after walking ten steps and returned home. Even in the ten steps that I took, I felt that a mere dupatta cannot keep out pollution or filter air.

A face mask was an alternative. I hadn’t seen people wearing it in Chennai and had no idea where to find one. Online shopping came to the rescue. I browsed Amazon and found a few. Reviewing the features, I found Dettol Siti Shield anti-pollution smart N95 mask. The ‘N95’ designation means that when subjected to careful testing, the mask/respirator blocks at least 95% of very small (0.3 micron) test particles. The Siti shield comes in three sizes and uses a three layered filtration process. It also has a smart valve fitted on the inside of the mask to provide an outlet for exhaled air. It is soft, comfortable and reusable with adjustable straps. Using it gives a sense of relief and stepping out has become easier without constant worry of the air that one is breathing.

While one can’t get rid of polluted air completely, at least a protective layer in form of this mask is a step in the direction of a healthier lifestyle. I carry the mask everywhere I go especially to my hometown, Delhi, where the bad quality air is making headlines. Prevention is indeed better than cure. Do take air pollution seriously and consider ways of protecting yourself and your family from it.

This article was first published on Momspresso (erstwhile mycity4kids) sponsored by Dettol.

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