Doctors at a private hospital who are screening Karnataka’s traffic police have found that all is not well with their noses — or their ears.
It’s well known that exposure to dust, erratic timings, and the pressure of managing traffic during peak hours are some of the reasons why traffic cops experience health-related issues, especially lung disorders, heart conditions, hypertension, diabetes, and obesity.
But now, doctors at Hosmat Hospital, Bengaluru, have found that many of the cops have reported damage to the mucous lining of the nose, causing nasal allergies and nasal polyps. As well as hearing loss.
“We have introduced screening of traffic cops for issues only related to the ear, nose and throat this time,” Dr Prashanth Reddy, ENT Consultant & Head of Department at Hosmat Hospital, told South First.
“We found that many of them come with nasal issues, migraine-like sinus headaches, noise-induced hearing loss, throat infections, sleeplessness, and sleep apnoea, along with the usual pre-diabetes, pre-hypertension, and lung-related issues,” Dr Reddy said.
The importance of screening
Every year, the state government organsies health screening camps for Karnataka’s traffic police.
Hosmat Hospital is one of the hospitals where the state government sends its traffic police personnel for the screening.
“Every year, a health screening camp for traffic police is organised. Nearly 2,000 traffic cops from Bengaluru and the neighbouring districts come to Hosmat for check-ups,” said Hosmat Hospital Group COO Sandeep R.
He added, “The police have had a standard protocol where certain kinds of tests and consultations are done as part an annual health check-up. The ENT screening was not requested by the police department, but we at Hosmat volunteered this year.”
“We realised that there is a lot of stress on these traffic police personnel, especially after Covid. As their regular health check-up does not cover ENT-related issues, we thought adding that would help to screen them.”
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Issues seen in traffic police
The doctors explained that of the 1,000-odd traffic police personnel screened since last week, 80 percent had allergic rhinosinusitis and five percent of them had nasal polyps.
Nasal polyps are small growths inside the nose and sinuses that can cause congestion, loss of smell, breathing disorders, and sleep-related issues.
“It is a teardrop-shaped growth that can occur on both sides of the nose. Small polyps usually don’t cause any symptoms, but they will get noticed as they grow. These can lead to changes in the sense of smell, congestion, nasal obstruction, difficulty in breathing, difficulty in sleeping, and so on,” explained Dr Reddy.
Usually, nasal polyps develop when someone has chronic rhinosinusitis (sinus infection). They are seen in people with asthma, allergies, and repeat infections.
“Air pollution is increasingly affecting traffic cops. They stand at junctions where vehicles are idling. That’s when most of the hydrocarbons are emitted. They inhale this and other pollutants, and they develop allergic reactions, like wheezing, runny nose, and allergies. Long-term chronic exposure to these allergens will cause a protective mechanism in the body where the mucosa will become thick and bulbous,” Dr Reddy said.
These polyps can be either benign or malignant, stated. “A majority of what we see amongst our traffic cops seems to be benign. For the remaining 10 percent, we have to perform a biopsy,” he added.
The police personnel have been given nasal sprays as the first line of treatment to see if their issue will go away with the medication.
However, a month later, if there are more secretions with fungal elements inside the sinuses, then it will warrant surgery to remove the fungal elements, explained Dr Reddy.
The doctors strongly advise doing a follow-up to see if the allergy has cleared and if the polyp is gone. They also recommended that the traffic police wear masks when on duty.
Snoring and sleep apnoea
Interestingly, these cops are also snorers and are experiencing sleep apnoea. Sleep apnoea is a disorder that causes you to stop breathing while asleep.
The doctors who screened the cops said that snoring issues need to be evaluated in detail as this can lead to lifestyle diseases.
Many of the cops also presented had stress-induced, migraine-like sinus headaches. The doctors said that excessive traffic, especially in cities like Bengaluru, puts a lot of stress on the traffic police.
“Stress and standing under the hot sun have probably also led to the development of migraine-like sinus headaches and dizziness. The headaches, in turn, will lead to lack of concentration, sleeplessness, and irritable behaviour,” explained the doctors.
According to Dr Pradeep Kumar, Consultant Senior Physician at Hosmat Hospital, many of the traffic policemen complained of stress, especially when posted at large gatherings, election rallies, etc.
“This kind of movement to various locations, without any proper accommodation and irregular food timings, can lead to stress-induced headaches too,” he said.
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From GERD to poor hearing
Due to stress, migraines and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), some have also reported gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) — a chronic condition in which the stomach’s contents flow backward, up into the oesophagus.
“When traffic police are on duty, they do not keep to proper timings for food. This leads to acid reflux. In the case of traffic cops, unfortunately, it is not related only to GERD,” explained Dr Reddy.
Many traffic cops have hearing disorders too. While people think all that honking has led to hearing loss, the doctors said that hearing loss can also happen due to allergy in the throat and GERD as well.
Dr Reddy explained, “It is called conductive hearing loss. While noise pollution leads to sensory hearing loss, allergies and GERD can lead to mechanics in the ear getting affected.”
Doctors at Hosmat said that about five percent of cops had generalised body aches, knee pain, hip pain, neck pain, and so on. Orthopaedic references were also given at the screening camp.
The screening programme started last week and a total of 2,500 people will be screened during this camp.
Dr Prashanth Reddy said that some of the cops were advised surgery.
Physicians who saw the traffic police the year before as well said that they did not find much of a difference from last year. A majority of them had hypertension, obesity, and lifestyle-related diseases.
“About 24 percent of those who had crossed 45 years of age were overweight. Though their jobs are not sedentary, the food they eat plays a major role. They are not getting home food and not eating on time. That plus lack of sleep leads to obesity,” said Dr Reddy.
But here’s hoping for some much-needed change for these cops.
Speaking to South First, Special Commissioner of Police (Traffic), MA Saleem said, “We have provided our traffic police with a shift system. They work in seven-hour shifts, unlike the regular police. They are given kiosks to be seated during non-peak hours. Also, annual health camps like these ensure that their diseases are identified at the early stages. The Arogya Bhagya scheme provides treatment completely free of cost for these cops as well. They are taken care of well.”