Infections during monsoon

There are many infections that are just waiting to catch you in the wet season

Lady in the rains

Why do people fall ill more during monsoon?

This season witnesses more illnesses than any other season because the moisture and humidity in the air is highest during this period. Everything is constantly damp and cold, exactly the kind of climate parasites love. They thrive in this season. At the same time, the high humidity lowers our immunity and hence we contract infections easily.

What are common monsoon maladies?

There are different kinds of illnesses that see a spike during the season. Our digestive system, skin, eyes, ears and feet get affected the most. Infections of the gastrointestinal [GI] tract such as amebiasis, cholera, campylobacteriosis, giardiasis, Hepatitis A and E, salmonellosis, shigellosis and typhoid are common. The skin infections that are widespread include tinea and athlete’s foot. Other illnesses include those of the eye like conjunctivitis, ear infections like otitis externa [infection of the outer ear and ear canal], malaria, and allergies.

What can one do to avoid them?

Most of the measures you can adopt to avoid infections is to follow good hygiene.

So, drink only boiled or purified water. Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly as they have a lot of dirt and muck sticking to them, which, if not washed properly, can contaminate the food and cause a stomach upset.

Avoid eating raw vegetables. Eat food when it is freshly cooked and hot as the cooking process kills germs. Keep food covered at all times to prevent flies sitting on it.

What is the hygiene that one needs to follow?

Keep your feet dry, making sure that the area between the toes has dried as well. This is the most vulnerable area when it comes to infections of the feet. If you have trudged through dirty water, when you get home, make sure that you soak your feet in hot water to which a disinfectant has been added. Once again, dry your feet thoroughly.

Also, wear open footwear through which water trickles easily and doesn’t collect.

Use antifungal powders to prevent intertrigo, a skin infection that occurs in skin folds. Wash your clothes regularly. Dry them thoroughly. Avoid wearing damp clothes as they will make your skin itch.

What are the symptoms one should look for?

Fevers, abdominal cramps, loose motions, vomiting leading to dehydration are common symptoms of acute infections of the gastrointestinal tract.

A discharge from the eyes or ears signals infection too. Itching and redness of the skin also demands medical attention. If any of these symptoms do not subside within a day or two, consult your physician.

This was first published in the June 2011 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

Dr Swati Rajagopal is consultant, infectious disease at Columbia Asia Hospital, Bangalore.


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