The early and generous onset of rains this season might have given a much-needed respite from the heat but has also brought along a spike in monsoon-related illnesses. Viral fevers, sore throat, respiratory tract infections including swine flu, jaundice, typhoid, hepatitis A, leptospirosis, gastrointestinal-problems, malaria, dengue, chikungunya, a slew of fungal and bacterial skin infections and a general fall in immunity – health problems related to monsoons are plenty.
Sudden variations in temperature play mischief with the body balance causing your immunity to dip down. These temperature fluctuations coupled with moisture and humidity in the atmosphere and waterlogging are very conducive for bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites to flourish.
All age groups are affected during this season, but the brunt usually falls on the very young and the very old – the two age groups that have a lower level of immunity than normal.
The most common are water-borne diseases like gastroenteritis, cholera, typhoid, and jaundice, along with mosquito-borne diseases like malaria, dengue, and chikungunya. Viral and bacterial infections, especially of the respiratory tract, and other ailments due to the sudden drop in temperature also find quite a few takers when it pours.
Allergic manifestations mainly due to the proliferation of insects like mosquitoes, ticks, fleas, mites, spiders, cockroaches, and lice are common. Also, moist and humid climates are favorable for the growth of many fungi and molds – all of which can give rise to allergic manifestations in the skin, nose, eyes, stomach and air passages.
Common cold, cough and viral fever
One of the biggest reasons for major absenteeism in the monsoons — the common cold — is common due to viruses that thrive in humid conditions. Staying in wet clothes for long periods and prolonged exposure to humid air from ACs increase your chances of catching a cold.
- Keep a spare pair of clothes in your office drawer.
- Turn down ACs and open the windows.
- Common cold spreads quickly through contact. So, wash your hands often and prevent contact with people who have a cold as much as possible.
Prolonged fever lasting for more than five days, headache, diarrhea and abdominal pain followed by a rash in the second week might be indicative of typhoid, which is mostly spread via contaminated food and water due to poor sanitation.
- Avoid eating outside food as much as possible.
- Typhoid vaccines are available. You will need to complete your vaccination at least 1-2 weeks before you travel to an endemic area so that the vaccine has time to take effect. It stays effective for 2 years.
- If you have high fever and feel very ill, see a doctor immediately.
A mild to moderate viral liver disorder transmitted by ingesting food or water contaminated by an infected person’s feces, or direct contact with an infected person. In a country like ours, sewage-contamination during monsoon is quite common, and hence the spurt in Hepatitis A infection. One suffers from fever, body aches, stomach pain, loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting. Dark-colored urine and jaundice (a yellowish tinge in the eyes, skin, and nails) are also seen.
- Stick to having thoroughly cooked, homemade food.
- Drink only preboiled water or bottled water with unbroken seals.
- Vaccination is recommended for all children aged 12 months or older, for travelers, and for people at high risk of infection with the virus. Discuss with your physician to know if it’s safe for you.
A deadly bacterial disease caused by contaminated food and water or poor hygienic conditions. Common symptoms being severe diarrhea with “rice water” like stools and vomiting, causing immediate water loss and muscle cramps. Diarrhea can be so severe that it leads to severe dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. It requires immediate treatment because the disease can cause death within hours. When symptoms start:
- The goal is to replace lost fluids and electrolytes using a simple rehydration salt solution (ORS), available as a powder that can be reconstituted in boiled or bottled water.
- To ease stomach cramps, using a hot water bottle or a warm compress on your abdomen might help.
- Antibiotics are not a necessary part of cholera treatment. Oral vaccinations are available.
A bacterial disease caused by walking in dirty water contaminated by the urine of animals like rats, cats, dogs, horses, etc. You stand a higher chance of infection especially if you have broken skin. Symptoms include high fever and chills with severe headache and body aches, followed by nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. The bacteria multiply in the liver, kidneys and central nervous system. If neglected it can lead to jaundice, kidney failure, hemorrhage, and shock.
- Avoid stepping into dirty water as much as possible.
- Take a bath as soon as you reach home.
- If you have broken skin due to some injury, cover it well.
Caused by the bite of an infected female anopheles mosquito — which breeds in dirty water in the waterlogged areas — malaria is the most common vector-borne disease of monsoons. The mosquito bites at night and symptoms include sudden fever, shivers, muscle pain, sweating, and weakness. It’s diagnosed via an antigen detection test in the peripheral blood sample. If untreated, it can lead to jaundice, severe anemia or even liver and kidney failure.
- Stagnant water acts as a breeding ground for mosquitoes — ensure that your neighborhood is kept as clean as possible.
- If you need to store water at home in buckets, ensure that you cover it. Use mosquito screens, nets, fiberglass meshes or magnetic insect repellent screens for your windows and apply a mosquito repellent.
Caused by a virus, it is transmitted by the bite of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which bites during the day and can cause severe, occasionally persistent, joint pain as well as fever and rash. Specific antiviral drugs or vaccines for the treatment of chikungunya fever aren’t available. Therefore, early diagnosis and proper treatment are important for the control of infection. People with chikungunya fever are treated symptomatically. Click here to read more.
Another viral disease transmitted by the bite of Aedes aegypti mosquito and is also called break-bone fever. There is a sudden onset of high fever with chills, headache especially behind eyes, severe pain in muscles and joints and a typical skin rash similar to measles. Other symptoms can be vomiting, acute pain abdomen, constipation, weakness, puffy face, red eyes, bleeding gums or nose, red palms, and soles, etc. In severe cases, it causes a drop in the platelet count and sudden bleeding. The patient can go in shock or even die. Click here to read more.
Skin problems during monsoon
Skin needs extra pampering in monsoons as wind, rain and the temperature drop strain your skin. Dandruff is very common in the monsoon due to the humidity and overgrowing of Malassezia furfur fungus. Fungal infections like ringworm occur commonly in areas like armpits, groin and between toes. Breakouts, acne and bacterial infections are aggravated by wet clothes.
Who says Homoeopathy is slow…
A couple of years back I happened to be in the hills during monsoon, visiting a friend. I met a little girl with an acute bacterial infection of the upper lip going right into her nostril. The condition was very painful as there was an accumulation of pus under a stiff scab and she couldn’t open her mouth even to talk. There was a lot of swelling around.
This is how she improved beautifully and so quickly with just a few doses of homoeopathic medicine.
Another reminder that homoeopathy is Not a Placebo.
Your homoeopathic physician is fully equipped to take care of the monsoon maladies and ensure that these seasonal ailments do not play a spoilsport. All kinds of bacterial, viral, fungal and parasitic infections can be easily taken care of with homoeopathy. In fact, viral infections starting from a common cold to swine flu, dengue and chikungunya; which have no specific treatment and do not respond to antibiotics, are treated most quickly and effectively.
Also, medicines are available that act as genus epidemicus, i.e. when given as a prophylactic before contracting the illness, they build up your immunity and help to prevent the disease.
You must keep a watch on your diet in this weather to keep diseases at bay. Here are a few basic dietary changes that will help:
1. Avoid eating junk and street food as it’s prone to contamination. Stick to fresh, home-cooked food to avoid stomach allergies.
2. Switch to warm beverages – adding mint or ginger to your milk or tea is a great and easy way to boost immunity.
3. Eat the immunity boosters garlic, yogurt, curd, and almonds.
4. Do not consume fried or oily food as it can cause acidity. Go for steamed, grilled or tandoori instead. Using a lot of spices and salt while cooking can cause water retention and bloating.
5. Avoid consuming seafoods like fish, prawns, crabs, etc. It’s breeding season for them and you may end up having stomach infections. Stick to chicken and mutton to satiate your craving for non-vegetarian foods.
6. Vitamin C is recognized for its anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties which help in building up your immunity. Increase your intake of fruits high in vitamin C content like oranges, grapes fruits, tangerines, green leafy vegetables, bell pepper, papaya, guava.
7. Vegetables and fruits should be properly washed. Also, avoid eating cut fruits and vegetables because there are more chances of bacterial growth and infection.
8. Avoid sour foods like tamarind (imli), chutneys, and pickles as they promote water retention. Eat a lot of asafoetida, turmeric, coriander, and cumin, all of which enhance digestion. Honey helps keep the intestines sterile and assists in digestion.
9. Foods rich in probiotics such as yogurt, buttermilk, etc. can enhance your immune function by providing beneficial bacteria for your gut and help stimulate your immune system.
10. Eat foods that are dry in nature like corn, chickpea, besan (gram flour) and oats as fungal infection and bacteria can grow pretty fast in the wet food items.
Dos and Don’ts
- Avoid any stagnation of water near your house to ensure it doesn’t become breeding ground for mosquitoes. Keep your surroundings as dry and clean as possible. Spray a strong insect repellent to keep mosquitoes away.
- Avoid walking through contaminated dirty water as it can cause fungal infections in the feet and nails.
- Keep your feet dry because having wet feet is the easiest way to catch a cold.
- Wear full-sleeved clothes. This will expose less skin, leaving lesser scope for insect bites.
- Drink a lot of water, but make sure it’s boiled and filtered. Never drink from the glass or bottle of an infected person as it may spread the infection to you.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water before you eat or prepare food, feed your children, or after using the toilets.
- Use separate hand towels to avoid the transmission of disease-causing bacteria.
- Take a shower after you get drenched in the rain. A sudden change in body temperature can make you fall ill. So, it’s better to take a hot shower right after getting wet in the rain. This will help stabilize the cold temperature. It will also help you get rid of all the germs that you may have picked up.
- Sleep adequately in order to relax physically and mentally.
We are approaching the caudal end of monsoons. Whatever be the illness, a little bit of caution and prophylaxis can help us deal with these monsoon niggles effectively and keep us rejoicing and frolicking through the season.
Note:: Do ask for a preventive for dengue, chikungunya and swine flu from your homoeopathic physician this monsoon!