At the onset of the pandemic, lockdowns imposed to curb coronavirus spread offered a rare glimpse of a low-carbon world. At an AQI of just 41, New Delhi breathed its cleanest year in the last five years in August this year. However, the dream of clean air was fleeting, at best. Nitrogen and carbon emissions and along with it, air pollution has witnessed a steady rise since the nation began its unlocking process. Where the Covid-19 lockdowns revealed how global emissions can be reduced with collective action, the return of polluted air has exposed a grave respiratory health crisis. Rising air pollution levels have launched a two-pronged attack on the residents on Northern India with emergency rooms reporting 30-40% higher number of patients with lung ailments. Scientists have confirmed that long-term exposure to air pollution can make matters worse for people recovering from Covid-19, making respiratory health a top priority. Studies from the US, Italy, Netherlands and more have revealed that the risk of death from Covid-19 is nearly 15% higher for people living in polluted cities. To make matters worse, air pollution may even be responsible for increasing the spread of coronavirus. A letter in MedRxiv magazine confirmed the presence of SARS-CoV-2 genetic material on pollutant particles, suggesting that pollution makes Covid-19 particles to disperse slower giving way to more infections. All in all, the scientific community is united in believing that the rise in pollution is and will make the pandemic worse. So what are the precautions you need to take as the AQI worsens? Experts recommend staying indoors as much as possible. Avoid crowded markets and open-air events or parties. If you're going out, you must wear a face mask and make sure you wear it properly. Nose and mouth must be covered at all times. Face shields alone are ineffective at preventing infection spread. Invest in air purifiers at home as indoor air pollution is as bad as the one outdoors. You may even try planting some air-purifying plants. People with asthma and other chronic respiratory issues should avoid going out, at least during early morning and late evening hours. Give your outdoor workouts and morning or evening stroll a break. Exercise at home to stay fit. Breathing exercises such as anulom-vilom and kapalbhati may help boost your lung health. This may be a good time to give your diet an update: -- Increase your intake of protein and essential vitamins like A, D and E. -- Hydration is key. Drink lots of water, soups and eat water-rich foods to keep your fluids in check. -- Beat winter colds with a fat-rich diet. Get your Omega 3s from nuts and seeds like flaxseeds and walnuts. -- Ginger and garlic have anti-inflammatory properties. They promote muscle relaxation and help you breathe easier. As winter rolls in, PM2.5 levels rise and virus cases continue to increase, it has become our responsibility to take care of ourselves and end the nation's battle with this deadly disease.