In Focus

Food, plants help combat heat wave

By Manu Shrivastava

In the week gone by, megapolis Mumbai not just recorded the maximum temperature of the season at 40.9 degree Celsius, it also witnessed severe temperature fluctuations and increased air pollution levels. The temperature rise to 40.9 degree Celsius also happens to be the third-highest temperatures recorded for the month of March over the last decade.

Not only are Mumbaikars battling another wave of COVID cases, the soaring temperatures, weather fluctuations and rising pollution levels are causing health woes among residents. Owing to civic construction activities across the city and fluctuating day and night temperatures, the city is in acute distress and how!

CRISIS: Mumbaikars face threat from fluctuating temperatures and air pollution 

With the causative factors, human health is affected in general, it's the children, the elderly and those predisposed to certain medical conditions, illnesses and compromised immunity that face the brunt of this all.

Ahead of World Health Day, a global health awareness day celebrated on 07 April each year, here are a few tips on how to combat the heat and keep the soaring PM 2.5 levels in check.

PAEDIATRICIAN: Dr Mukesh Sanklecha
With the increase in temperatures, the risk of food and water contamination also soars. Bombay Hospital’s consultant paediatrician Dr Mukesh Sanklecha says, “This time of the year, when temperature fluctuations are high, most children contract stomach infection, especially if one is eating out or ordering in, resulting in diarrhoea, vomiting, etc. Also, because of the heat, children often develop skin infection resulting in boils, etc.”

This year, owing to the pandemic, children are staying in, not attending schools, playschools or day-care centres. “This has actually led to lesser cases of respiratory infections, sore throat, cough and cold among children.”

According to Dr Sanklecha, “the best way to keep children safe is to keep them indoors to prevent direct sun exposure and ensure they stay hydrated. Parents should avoid sending children to play outside during peak heat hours.”

And, fluctuating temperatures and rising particulate matter in the air doesn’t affect just children. General Physician Dr Suresh Agrawal says, “During changing seasons, temperature fluctuations are high resulting from an increased difference in day and night temperatures.

This time, most patients visit doctors complaining of cough, cold or throat infection. And, this is seen among patients of all ages,” he adds. 

Interior Designer Kiran Naik feels a lot of heat and pollution-related problems can easily be avoided “just by making improvements at home” with informed interior design tips. “There has been a general rise in temperatures anyway because of global warming. So, by making small changes, one can make living at home easy.” 

She suggests, “It’s important for the house to be well ventilated so make sure the house has an open plan and no obstructions to the natural flow of air. Also, if you’re living in a ‘hot’ zone, it’s advisable to avoid wood or vinyl flooring and rather go for cooler materials such as stone, marble, etc. Choosing lighter colours for the walls to deflect the heat and keeping indoor plants also help beat the heat.”

COOLANT: Melons are rich in water
Food plays an essential role in immunity-building and the overall health of an individual. Nutritionist Nandini Rao advises, “Seasonal fruits and vegetables have the necessary nutritional value to help tackle the summer heat, this time of the year.

Melons, mangoes, berries are a better alternative to snacks that are laden with chemical food additives. Melons are rich in water content and regulate body temperatures while mangoes help prevent heatstroke and stomach-related diseases. Staying hydrated is extremely important but aerated drinks must be replaced with iced tea or lemon tea loaded with antioxidants.”

Simple home remedies can be employed particularly during these times. They include the ingestion of Aam Panna (Raw Mango Juice), Aloe Vera Juice, Butter Milk, Coconut Water, Sabja Seeds, Tulsi and Fennel Seeds, Tamarind Juice and Coriander and Mint Leaves Juice.

DRINKS: Beverages help in hydration
“These not just help prevent but cure heat-related issues too. I vouch for their efficacy in case of children and the elderly at home,” assures home-maker and mother of two, Vaidehi Chitnis, who “speaks from experience.”

In Mumbai, with civic works going on in different parts of the city including road construction, footpath repairs, etc., the city recently registered an annual average PM 2.5 concentration of 41.3 micrograms / cubic metre. This was nearly four times above the WHO limit, according to IQAir, a Swiss group that measures air quality levels based on the concentration of Particulate Matter (PM) 2.5.

Again, changes at home can help reduce indoor pollution levels drastically and help prevent health issues such as asthma and infections. Architect Nilesh Joshi suggests proper design and planning can help address these issues. “The house must have ample natural light, proper ventilation and use of non-toxic material for the interiors. Some key plants help clear the air of toxins and carbon dioxide too.”

DUG UP: Construction work across Mumbai has led to increased levels of PM 2.5 in the air

Plants that can help cool, rid home of pollutants

1) Chrysalidocarpus lutescens better known as Areca Palm is known to remove more toluene and xylene than any other plant. Toluene, incidentally, happens to be one of the notorious ‘toxic trio’, with formaldehyde and dibutyl phthalate, hazardous to humans. Mostly found in paint thinners, glues, nail polish remover and correction fluid, Xylene is used as a solvent in the printing, rubber, and leather industries. The Areca palm is extremely effective at removing toxins from indoor air and emits large amounts of water vapour too thereby hydrating interiors effectively.

2) Epipremnum aureum or pothos commonly known as Money Plant is a powerful air purifying plant and doesn't require much maintenance making it an ideal indoor plant for homes and offices. Money plant produces oxygen even at night unlike other plants that release carbon dioxide at that time.

PURIFIER: The unassuming Money Plant has qualities to help clear the air of pollutants

3) Spathiphyllum known as Peace Lily, is unmatched in its ability to filter a range of chemicals from the indoor air. That it's a low maintenance plant and looks lovely too only add value to the Peace Lily. Besides being easily available, it is a wonderful air-filtering plant.

4) Ficus Elastica aka Rubber Plant is known to improve humidity in a room and have a cooling effect, particularly during these hot times. It is very effective in replenishing the moisture in the air. This plant takes in water through its roots and releases it through the pores located on the underside of its leaves or fronds.

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