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Busy street in Jaipur, Rajasthan, India.

Boosting your immune system along with proper protection can stem pollution-related infection

With every change in season, doctors see a steep rise in the number of patients for allergies and infection. Your body gets used to functioning at a set temperature, so as the season changes your body is forced to re-adapt to the new temperature. This includes a change in the immune system which is the body’s first line of defence. The immune system helps to protect the body from bacteria. viruses and fungi that cause diseases. In a majority of urban settings, the common cause of infections is pollution.

According to Dr Suresh Singh Naruka, a renowned ENT consultant and surgeon at Apollo, “Whenever there is a change in the temperature, the body’s immunity goes down which puts the body at a higher risk for getting affected by pollution. Nose and throat are the major portals which are directly exposed to pollution further exposing the lungs. This can also lead to serious illnesses like asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and in extreme cases even cancer.” This makes it important for us to stay extra protected until our bodies adjust to the summer heat.

How can we protect ourselves from pollution this summer?

Hydrate, hydrate and hydrate. Drinking water is a natural immune booster. Water taken in any form helps in removing toxins from the body, so drinking more of it could help prevent toxins from building up and having a negative impact on your immune system. Dr Naruka says, “You should not go out without hydrating yourself well, whether it is in the form of juice, lemon water or fruits.” Lemon water in itself has several health benefits. Lemons are a great source of Vitamin C, which helps boost the immune system, prevent diseases, protect cells and aid detoxification.

Particle-Filtering Masks

When going to a crowded place or places where you will be directly exposed to the pollution, it is important to cover your face with a quality mask. Air pollution is made up of particles and gases. Gases include carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide and a large group of chemicals known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs). While gases can have harmful effects, research indicates that “We should be most concerned about negative health impacts of fine particles – those under 2.5 microns in size.” Wearing particle-filtering masks can reduce the exposure to the pollution further reducing its harmful effects on nose, throat, lungs and heart. Dr Naruka also suggests to avoid crowded places as much as possible

Nutritional diet to boost the immune system

Under nutrition due to insufficient intake of energy and macro-nutrients weakens the immune system. This leads to increased risk of infections. Eating more fruits and vegetables, which are rich in nutrients like vitamins C and E, plus beta-carotene and zinc can help boost the immune system.

These nutrients can be found in a wide variety of brightly coloured fruits and vegetables, including berries, citrus fruits, kiwi, apples, red grapes, kale, onions, spinach, sweet potatoes, and carrots. Other foods particularly good for your immune system includes fresh garlic, which may help fight viruses and bacteria.

Keeping your environment clean

It is important to ventilate the houses and kitchen, using air purifiers in your house and cars can help prevent the build-up of toxic pollutants. Dr Naruka reminds us that we too are responsible for the poor air quality and it is important to make mindful choices as individuals to prevent pollution and create a healthier living space for ourselves.

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