Breathe easy

While we cannot control the weather, we can bring down its impact by taking some preventive measures, writes Dr Satyanarayana Mysore

Respiratory tract infection

Even as winter is waning, the season leaves behind a trail of symptoms making people more susceptible to illnesses. While dry skin and joint pains are common, wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath due to dry air during this time leads to respiratory infections.

Respiratory disorders are usually due to viral infections and occasionally due to bacterial infections. Most often, respiratory infections are contagious and can spread from one person to another by inhaling respiratory droplets from coughing or sneezing. They can also occur by touching the nose or mouth or through any other object exposed to the virus.

Some of the most common respiratory tract infections this season are:

Asthma

Asthma is a lung disease in which there is an inflammation and narrowing of the airways. Some of the common symptoms include sneezing, coughing, chest tightening etc. Asthma can be extrinsic or allergic in nature and is caused due to the exposure to an allergen, such as dust, pollen, paint dust, smoke, while intrinsic asthma is caused by sudden and extreme emotional reactions such as laughing, crying, anger, stress, or due to contact with certain chemicals like cigarette smoke, aspirin, cleaning agents etc.

Bronchiolitis

Bronchiolitis is a common lung infection that affects infants. It can cause coughing, wheezing and difficulty in breathing. Symptoms include cough, cold, fever, loss of appetite etc.

Pneumonia

Pneumonia causes inflammation in the air sacs of the lungs. The fluid or pus in the sacs leads to difficulty in breathing. It is a highly contagious disease and can be life -threatening. Some of the symptoms of pneumonia are cough with mucus, fever, sweat, fatigue, nausea, vomiting etc.

Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis is a contagious lung infection. It is usually caused by bacteria, which can even affect the brain and spine. Cough, along with blood, chest pain, tiredness, chills, fever and weight loss are some of the symptoms.

Treatment & prevention

It is advisable to seek medical attention if the symptoms are severe, lasts more than a couple of weeks, and if there is difficulty in breathing. Antibiotics and steroids are usually prescribed if there is respiratory bacterial infection. While one cannot control the weather, one can bring down its impact on their respiratory health. Some of the preventive measures to avoid respiratory illnesses are:

Stay warm.

Consume food with proper nutrition and adequate hydration.

Consume a lot of hot drinks and at least one hot meal a day. Always eat on time.

Maintain basic hygiene practices like washing hands frequently, drinking boiled water, maintaining cleanliness etc.

Avoid coming in contact with an infected person.

If one is affected by asthma or any other respiratory infection, take the prescribed medications.

Avoid exercising outdoors when the weather is cold. Try to stay as active as you can in order to keep the body warm and also to avoid muscle stiffness.

Take a flu shot prescribed by the doctor.

Keep emergency medication at home in case of any symptoms of respiratory infections.

(The author is interventional pulmonologist & somnologist, Manipal Hospitals, Bangalore)

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Breathe easy

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