We look forward to the rains with a lot of happiness. But be aware that you have to take a lot of health and other precautions to enjoy it properly, says Dr. T.D. Rajan. He narrows it down for us.
“There once was a child in Spain
Who loved to play in the rain
One day he tripped
And broke his hip
Now he is in serious pain”
This little limerick doing the rounds of the internet succinctly sums up the thrills and risks of the rainy season. Monsoon is the season of joy as it brings relief from the sweltering heat of summer. The showers brought in by the cool sea breeze not only helps the farmers, but also cheers up our economists who make predictions for the forthcoming year. Even as the rivers, lakes, ponds and wells fill up, monsoon brings along with it numerous challenges to the government administration.
At the individual level too, the rainy season poses several problems. We have to stock provisions, be ready with monsoon gear and plan schedules based on the weather. However, the most important factor during this wet season is the possibility of illnesses. Many health problems occur due the overcast sky and humid conditions, pollutants in the air and rain-related calamities like flooding, lightning attacks and epidemics. Let us look at some of the conditions we can avoid encountering this monsoon.
Broadly, health issues occurring during the rainy season in this part of the globe can be classified into two groups:
1. Primary ailments occurring during rainy season
2. Secondary ailments resulting from rain-related accidents and injuries
Flu or viral influenza is the commonest type of fever. The temperature is raised by 2-3oC. Cough and running nose are the accompanying symptoms. It usually settles down on its own, without any treatment, when the patient takes rest and has nutritious food.
Malaria, dengue and leptospirosis cause specific types of fever which causes severe weakness. All these diseases present with high grade fever with chills, muscle pain, fatigue etc. Dengue patients may show bleeding gums or bruising on the skin. Appropriate treatment with medications is necessary, sometimes hospitalisation is also required.
Chikungunya is another type of fever associated with joint stiffness and restricted limb movement. Unlike other types of fever, symptoms could take several months to return to normalcy.
Fever: Most general practitioners’ clinics would be overflowing with children and adults during this season, and the commonest complaint would be “fever.” Fever is the body’s immune response when it tries to fight an invading germ.
Asthmatics get an aggravation in their breathing disorder due to the high humidity levels in the environment. Pollutants remain embedded in these water droplets, triggering an attack of asthma. Inhalers and anti-asthma tablets may be necessary to combat this condition.
Running nose and cough are also very common during the rainy season. Symptomatic treatment is usually sufficient to control these conditions.
Diarrhoea and food poisoning are very common in this season. Repeated vomiting and loose motions may induce dehydration. Plenty of fluids should be consumed to compensate for the fluid lost. Butter milk, fruit juices and bland food is advised till the loose motions subside.
Contaminated food items may cause typhoid fever which also may cause ulcers in the intestine. Antibiotics and rest is always required to treat this condition.
Hepatitis A or the common type of jaundice is transmitted by flies and unhygienic food stuffs. Fruits, juices and a bland vegetarian diet with very little oil content is usually recommended.
Constant soaking of feet in rain water will encourage fungal infection like Athlete’s foot. The skin peels off from between the toes and there is intense itching.
Similarly, jock itch which is also caused by ringworm occurs due to failure to change from wet clothing. A ring-like pattern of rash is seen in the groin, extending to the genitals and buttocks. Occasionally ringworm is also seen on the abdomen and under the breasts in women who sweat during heavy work in the hot and humid kitchen.
Keeping the skin dry and taking bath twice daily are the only ways to keep the skin clean. Antifungal dusting powders will also help. In advanced cases, oral antifungal tablets and creams may need to be taken with a doctor’s help.
Boils may occur on any part of the body, especially in children due to excessive sweating. Antibiotics are usually required. Untreated boils may form large, painful pus pockets requiring surgical removal.
Prickly heat is the commonest skin rash and appears like a red sheet of skin with fine granular feel. This occurs due to blockage of the sweat duct and subsequent microbial action. Frequent cold baths and prickly heat powders help to relieve the itch.
Stye and conjunctivitis are common eye disorders. The eye appears blood shot red and there is profuse discharge of sticky fluid. The secretions being infectious, other family members and close associates are often infected.
Antiviral eye drops and antibiotics may be required as advised by the doctor.
Secondary ailments like accidents and injuries
People may slip and fall during rains resulting in bruises and fractures. Diabetic patients may get bad skin infections in such injuries which could have grave consequences.
Flash floods that occurred in Chennai last year caused deaths due to drowning. Fatal injuries occur when manhole covers get lifted off from the roads.
Flooding in areas where electric junction boxes are located could lead to electrocution.
Slippery roads can cause two wheelers to skid and brake failure of larger vehicles causing injuries and deaths. The poor visibility during rains also increases the risk of motor accidents.
Plan your journey well and ensure that the place you are visiting is safe. Otherwise, reschedule your visit. Do not rush into an unfamiliar place unless it is an emergency.
Surviving rain related health issues
Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection common during rains
Being aware of all health problems that are likely to occur during monsoon will help one to prevent major calamities. Maintaining good health throughout the year will be the best way to avert any calamity during the rainy season.
The following precautions will go a long way in preventing illness during this season:
Be rain ready
Keep rain shoes, raincoats, umbrellas and windcheaters ready all the time. Keeping the head well protected with a cap during rain will prevent a host of viral infections like cough and cold.
Change into dry clothes as soon as one reaches home. This will prevent flu, cold and fungal infections of the skin.
Motorists should get their vehicles serviced, tyres and windscreen wipers checked to avoid breakdown of the vehicle during heavy rains.
Do not leave the place of work or school if there is flooding in the vicinity during heavy rains. It is safer to be indoors during such time.
Ensure cell phone batteries are charged to contact family in distress. Keep the phone bound in plastic cover to prevent soaking.
While leaving home eat well so that one does not remain hungry in case one is caught off guard in a heavy shower.
Drinking a hot cup of tea or coffee is a safe option on the street.
Avoid eating sandwiches and chutneys which have the risk of being contaminated.
Wash hands frequently, do not bite nails and keep good cleanliness all the time, as whatever you touch may be carrying germs due to the damp weather. Use a sanitiser if water is not available immediately.
Vegetables and fruits should be well cleaned with water before cutting. Store them carefully to avoid any contamination.
Water containers should be well covered all the time to prevent flies from contaminating it.
Avoid stagnation of water around the house to prevent breeding of malaria causing mosquitoes. Inform the local municipal authority if there is a puddle in the locality which is under their jurisdiction.
Visit the family doctor immediately when fever persists beyond 24 hours.
Carry out all the tests and complete all the treatment advised by the doctor.
Do not hesitate to take a second opinion if the condition does not come under control within a reasonable span of time.
Monsoons are real fun if our health is in good shape. Make sure that the family remains in close communication and inform each other about the location if any unprecedented showers get you stuck somewhere. Take help of colleagues to use social media to inform family about one’s location if the phone network is not available handy. Most importantly, in whatever situation one is in, keep a cool head and stay where you are. Others will find you!