There has been an alarming increase in the number of patients with respiratory diseases as the air quality deteriorates day by day.
In the last five years, the number of asthma patients rose by a factor of 24 to 78,806 in 2019 from 3,326 in 2015. Deaths from the disease went up 10-fold to 588 from 56 in the same period.
Similarly, the number of cases of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) rose from 1,610 in 2015 to 78,806 in 2019, an increase by a factor of 49. Deaths from it increased 19-fold to 588 in the same period, according to a recent report of the health directorate.
The health directorate has collected information of asthma and COPD patients in the country for five years. The number of COPD cases and deaths from the disease has increased greatly during the time.
"Dust pollution is increasing day by day and so are pollution-related diseases," said Dr Ayesha Akter, assistant director (health emergency operations and control room) of the health directorate.
The health directorate does not provide treatment. Instead it holds awareness programmes for the prevention of diseases, she added.
It advises people to use masks to protect themselves from dust, Dr Ayesha said.
"If air pollution decreases, the number of patients will automatically fall. That is why an initiative, in collaboration with the environment department, will be taken to reduce air pollution,"
Physicians said exceeding the tolerable limit, and excessive harmful fine particulate matter in the air are responsible for short-term headaches and various respiratory diseases.
Regular exposure to such air can cause long-term headaches, severe breathing problems, kidney issues, cancer and other major health hazards.
Experts say that air pollution is mainly caused by brick kilns and construction projects.
Dr Lelin Chowdhury, an expert on preventive medicine, said 56 percent of air pollution is caused by brick kilns.
He said brick kilns need to be controlled to improve air quality.
"The fitness of vehicles needs to be monitored strictly, and trees must be planted to improve the quality of air in the city," added Dr Lelin.
According to the Department of the Environment, air pollution has increased significantly over the last four years. Usually, the extent of pollution in Dhaka's air goes up from November to March. The maximum pollution occurs between December and February.
The number of asthma patients is increasing at the Asthma Centre of Dhaka Shishu Hospital every day.
Dr Md Kamruzzaman, assistant professor of Respiratory Medicine at the hospital, said the number of patients under five years of age has increased substantially at the Asthma Centre due to air pollution.
The number of patients suffering from breathing problems, bronchitis and other respiratory problems is also on the rise, he added.
According to the Air Quality Index (AQI), at 8am on Monday, Dhaka's score was 208, which is very unhealthy.
Masks do not protect people from pollution if the AQI passes 200, doctors say.
According to a report from the State of Global Air 2019, 1.23 lakh people died in Bangladesh in 2017 as a result of air pollution.