From fevers and migraines to road hazards, Lahori smog has become a “silent killer.”
Lahore-the city of gardens and where I spent my childhood has unfortunately turned into a “smog city.” The smog we see today has been present in Lahore during the past winter seasons, but extreme climate changes in Pakistan in 2022 have further exacerbated it. The impacts have been very detrimental on our health, making the city’s living conditions somewhat unbearable.
According to IQ Air’s latest ranking, Lahore has been ranked first in the most polluted cities in the world and first in Pakistan with an average AQI of 222 this past year of 2022. In fact, the AQI has even surpassed 300 on certain days which is extremely hazardous for residents.
I would initially look forward to spending time basking in the winter sun in Lahore, traveling with family, attending outdoor weddings, and overall relishing the moderate cold temperatures. November to March was practically the only time to enjoy the outside weather since the rest of the year in Lahore is quite hot and humid. However, the former clear blue winter skies I would wake up to have now sadly become hazy and gray, and my refuge from polluted air is the air purifier I keep at home.
The current smog has further intensified with even more air pollutants this year. These air pollutants originate from industrial factories, brick kilns or unsafe agricultural crop burning practices across Punjab that emit harmful gasses. This fog trail lingers on during the day and especially at night leading to lower visibility on the roads. People are unable to see 3-5 feet ahead while driving, and motorways have even closed to prevent car accidents. What started off as harmless fog has turned into smog that is now an impairment to one’s life on the roads. Flights have also had to have been rerouted to other nearby airports to ensure safety protocols.
Viral flus, fevers, asthma and dengue became more rampant this winter season. I was prepared for the common cold or flu, but not acute migraines or dengue. My migraines began in October 2022 and would worsen if I stayed outside for too long in the smog or sat next to a gas heater. I never had such migraines. I was unable to look at a screen for long durations as my head would start pounding.
To make matters worse, I caught dengue fever- a mosquito-borne illness that causes a high fever and flu-like symptoms. My symptoms started off as a 102 fever with migraines and body aches and ultimately a 104 fever. There were significantly more cases of dengue fever this winter too. I was almost bedridden for a whole week and experienced severe lethargy, body aches, chills and was unable to eat solid foods. Not eating solids impacted my health severely as I could barely walk without feeling dizzy and my platelet count decreased.
Having dealt with these recurring symptoms and staying indoors constantly really makes me question my pursuit of a “healthy lifestyle” in Lahore. From fevers and migraines to road hazards, Lahori smog has become a “silent killer.”