Hospital visits spike as Dhaka residents seek relief from springtime cough and cold

The daily patient count at Shishu Hospital has surged to 1,200-1,300, with the majority of children seeking treatment for pneumonia

Kazi Nafia
Published : 3 March 2024, 08:44 AM
Updated : 3 March 2024, 08:44 AM

Eight-month-old Safwan has been reeling from frequent fevers, coughs, and colds. The infant has caught fever three times over the past two months.

His mother, Banasree resident Mishkat Jahan, has gone to great lengths to shield him from dust and pollution, to little avail.

Mishkat is worried about the impact of these recurring illnesses on Safwan's normal development, including disrupted sleep and reduced appetite.

"The whole family came down with fever and colds recently. In addition to oral medications, my child requires a nebulizer," Mishkat said.

"The most challenging times are at night when his nose becomes blocked, making breathing difficult. He cries a lot and has trouble sleeping. Using nasal drops provides some relief, allowing him some sleep."

Safwan's struggles are not isolated as many other children and adults alike are facing similar respiratory issues with the transition from winter to spring.

Health experts highlight air pollution as a significant contributor to these respiratory ailments and recommend adopting a healthy lifestyle to ward off diseases.

This situation is not unique to Safwan. Many children and adults are falling ill with fever and respiratory issues as the season transitions from winter to spring.

Health experts attribute the rise in respiratory illnesses partly to air pollution and recommend maintaining a healthy lifestyle to ward off diseases.

Golam Nabi, a medical officer at the Emergency Department of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University Hospital, flagged an increase in patients with respiratory illnesses.

“We get 150-200 patients every day with symptoms of respiratory illness. Some of them suffer from asthma,” he said, adding the seasonal change is escalating such symptoms.

Similarly, the Shishu Hospital, a public facility for children, has seen a rise in patient numbers from 800-900 to 1,200-1,300 daily, with many cases of pneumonia, according to its Director Jahangir Alam.

Hosne Ara Begum, a woman in her 50s, has been struggling with a cough and cold for three weeks and now relies on an inhaler and nebulizer for relief.

“The symptoms intensified towards winter's end without showing signs of improvement. I can’t sleep without using a nebulizer and two inhalers daily,” she said.

Dust and pollution have exacerbated her health issues, limiting her ability to go outside, she added.


Public health expert Lelin Chowdhury pinpoints air pollution as one of the factors driving the recent uptick in respiratory distress cases.

Dhaka's notorious ranking as the city with the worst air quality for the first half of February has been linked to an increase in respiratory illnesses.

Data from IQAIR, an international air quality monitoring organisation, indicated that Dhaka's air quality was "very unhealthy" for the first 13 days of February.

Chowdhury explained that cold viruses, compounded by air pollution, exacerbate respiratory conditions. The arrival of spring brings lower humidity and increased pollution, conditions that promote viral diseases like influenza.

"Air pollution sensitises the respiratory tract, making individuals more susceptible to cough and cold viruses, which in turn leads to a broader spread of these illnesses in conditions of high pollution," he said.

Physician Jahangir Alam from the Shishu Hospital attributed the spike in respiratory diseases to seasonal changes. The transition to spring in February brought fluctuating temperatures, raising health concerns as people navigate between warm days and cold nights.

Dr ABM Abdullah, a medicine specialist, also pointed to air pollution as a key cause of the rising cases of colds and coughs.

The current weather pattern, characterised by warm days and cool nights, creates a challenging environment for health management, he noted. Missteps such as consuming cold beverages during the day can lead to colds.

Additionally, Dhaka's air, filled with smoke and dust amid low humidity, is likely to increase the prevalence of respiratory conditions, Abdullah added.


To combat these health risks, experts recommend adopting cautious measures and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, especially during weather changes.

ABM Abdullah advises people to adhere to health protocols and limit outdoor activities unless necessary.

Wearing masks can provide protection against air pollution, particularly for children and the elderly.

Moreover, he suggests avoiding cold water and drinks, eating out, and smoking to reduce the risk of contracting cold-related illnesses.