Monsoon maladies

Monsoon maladies

It's raining ailments! The prudent thing to do is to be aware of the common monsoon diseases, their symptoms, and seek treatment immediately, advises Dr Sheela Chakravarthy

The monsoons bring with them a horde of illnesses. The diseases that are commonly associated with the rains are either due to water stagnation, water contamination or new viruses that crop up, courtesy the change in weather.

The wet atmosphere promotes the widespread growth of microorganisms. Therefore, it is important for people to be aware of the different kinds of monsoon diseases and preventive measures for the same, so that they can protect themselves, and their loved ones, especially infants, toddlers, pregnant women and the elderly.

Gastroenteritis

Gastroenteritis occurs due to bacteria or viruses present in water. It manifests as vomiting and diarrhoea, and chances are high that a patient may end up with serious dehydration. This could
occasionally prove fatal, especially among newborns, infants and the elderly.

Early diagnosis and treatment is mandatory. Primary homecare involves the replenishment of not only water, but also salts. This could be easily achieved by drinking electrolyte solutions such as tender coconut water, oral rehydration solutions (ORS), buttermilk and lime juice with salt and sugar.

These fluids must be taken in small quantities, despite vomiting or diarrhoea. If there is no
improvement, pay a visit to the hospital, irrespective of the time of day or night.

Typhoid

Typhoid is a bacterial infection caused due to the contamination of portable water with sewage water. It manifests as continuous high fever lasting longer than a week. It can be diagnosed by a blood test.

Immediate diagnosis is important because, if left untreated, it could lead to severe complications such as perforation and bleeding of the intestine. Taking adequate rest, soft diet, and the antibiotic prescribed by the doctor is the best way to treat the ailment. You can also go in for a typhoid vaccine once in three years.

Hepatitis

Hepatitis is caused by a viral infection of the liver due to two waterborne viruses, Hepatitis A and E. Hepatitis manifests as jaundice, vomiting, abdominal pain and low blood sugar. If one contracts this
infection during pregnancy, it could be fatal for the mother and child. Since the liver constantly maintains the blood sugar between meals, the treatment for hepatitis is by continuously
replenishing the body with glucose-based solutions. Hospitalisation may be required if complications such as convulsions, liver failure and delirium occur. Hepatitis A can be prevented by vaccination. However, there is no vaccine for Hepatitis E.

Dengue

Dengue is a disease caused by a bite of Aedis egyptii mosquito during the day. It manifests as high fever, body aches and extreme tiredness. The incubation period for dengue fever is 3-15 days; the full-blown disease could take yet another week to manifest. Self-medication does not help; immediate consultation with a doctor is recommended. Dengue could manifest in three forms:


Dengue fever: Headache, muscular pain, joint pain, pain in the back of the eyes, weakness, loss of appetite and vomiting could be the symptoms.

Occasionally, throat pain and pinkish rashes on the upper part of the body could occur. Dengue hemorrhagic fever: Bleeding from gums, nose and other orifices is the major symptom. Blood in the vomit and blackish spots under the skin are not
unusual.

Dengue shock syndrome: Low blood pressure and damages to multiple organs are its major symptoms. It may prove  fatal in pregnant women and the elderly.


Malaria


Malaria is caused by mosquito bites, but unlike in dengue, the bite usually happens during the night. It could, at times, be fatal. High fever with shivering (lasting about 30 minutes) is the characteristic of malaria. It may be accompanied by muscular pains. In certain cases, the patient may confuse it with any other common viral fever. What sets malaria apart is its cyclic nature of symptoms.

The time between episodes of fever and other symptoms varies with the specific parasite you are infected with. Malaria is is known to be endemic in areas such as Mangalore, Goa and Pune. But the
disease is treatable and early treatment can prevent death.

Influenza


The influenza viruses constantly change, therefore, immunity by prior infection cannot be expected, unlike in other bacterial infections. Although a ‘flu vaccine’ is available, it may not guarantee prevention all the time.

The influenza viruses of two types could merge and cause dangerous fevers, such as the ‘bird flu’ and ‘swine flu’. If left unattended, these diseases could lead to death. The spread of epidemic is mainly by person to person transmission (while coughing and sneezing).

Self-medication, especially with antibiotics, is not recommended, as misuse will only result in antibiotic resistance. Best consult a doctor.

(The writer is director, internal medicine, Fortis Hospitals, Bangalore)

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