Thai man says Bangkok’s heavy air pollution sent him to the ICU for 5 days

Photo: Facebook/ Songsamut SpeedVan
Photo: Facebook/ Songsamut SpeedVan

A Thai man claims that he was sent to the Intensive care unit (ICU) for five days after developing a bad reaction to downtown Bangkok’s air pollution.

Samut Songkhram province resident Sompol Panarattanasopon’s horror story went viral this week after his sister, Songsamut, shared the 28-year-old’s near-death experience on her Facebook page on Tuesday.

“Don’t disregard this as just some dust. I want to warn you that it truly is dangerous,” she wrote.

Speaking to Coconuts Bangkok this afternoon, Songsamut explained that her brother started developing a cough, dry throat and a fever on Sunday night after he travelled into Bangkok’s Chitlom district to run some errands for about half an hour earlier that day.

“He already has bad allergies and asthma, which have worsened in recent weeks, but it has never been serious,” she told us.

Assuming the initial symptoms were just early signs he was coming down with the common cold, Sompol took a fever-suppressant and went to bed. However, when he woke up the symptoms had quickly escalated.

“He said his chest was really tight and he couldn’t breath. Until at one point he told me couldn’t handle it anymore, he was about to pass out. So we took him to the hospital around 11am,” Songsamut explained.

“His symptoms worsened shockingly quickly,” she added.

At Somdej Phra Phutthaloetla Hospital, the family was told that Sompol had asthmatic bronchitis. At that point, Sompol was, reportedly, losing consciousness because he couldn’t breath. His eyes were swollen as he started to enter into a coma.

That was when the doctor sent Sompol straight to the ICU, where he stayed for two days. Later he was transferred to the ICU at Mahachai Hospital (in order to use his social insurance), where he stayed for three more days.

Photo: Facebook/ Songsamut SpeedVan
Sompol in the ICU. Photo: Facebook/ Songsamut SpeedVan

A quick biology lesson: every time one breathes, air flows down your throat through bronchial tubes, which needs to be opened for air to reach your lungs, where oxygen can be passed into your blood.

Asthmatic bronchitis occurs when those tubes are inflamed, preventing air from reaching your lungs, according to WebMD. Combined with asthma, the muscles around the airway tighten, causing it to narrow even more. This condition is triggered by inflammatory substances including smoke, viral infections and —  oh yeah — pollution.

Sompol was also diagnosed with hypoxaemia — an abnormally low level of oxygen in the blood.

“This has never happened before,” said Songsamut.

Songsamut said the doctor was confident that Sompol’s near-death experience was caused by high levels of PM2.5 pollution (i.e. containing particulate matter 2.5 micrometers or less in diameter)

Photo: Facebook/ Songsamut SpeedVan
Photo: Facebook/ Songsamut SpeedVan

“The doctor said we nearly didn’t make it to the hospital in time,” she said relaying a warning to netizens to visit the hospital as soon as worrisome or unusual  symptoms manifest.

“The doctor told us not to self-medicate or power through bad symptoms. He said to come to the hospital as soon as symptoms start or else it may be too late.”

Sompol isn’t the only netizen with worrisome symptoms. Many netizens have taken to the Facebook page “A beautiful Spy” to share their own horror pictures from this era of PM2.5.

Photo: Facebook/ Bom Nutthawut
Photo: Facebook/ Bom Nutthawut

Latest Air Quality Index update reveals Bangkok’s air pollution at an “unhealthy” level.

At a score of 173 “everyone may begin experiencing health effects.” It is recommended for people with respiratory diseases, like asthma, to avoid prolonged outdoor exposure. Meanwhile, everyone else should also limit prolonged outdoor exertion.

Screenshot: Air Qualit Index
Screenshot: Air Quality Index

So heed the doctor’s warning lovely Coconauts. Stay safe and please visit a doctor when unusual symptoms start presenting themselves.


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