Protect yourself from these monsoon diseases

Resisting the temptation to eat street food and using common sense will go a long way in keeping you disease-free during the wet months

Illustration to depict protection from monsoon diseases

Summer’s not officially over but the rains bring in a respite from the heat. Schools and colleges re-open, families are back from their vacations, all around us there’s a sense of relief from the heat and, of course, a desire to have hot bhajiyas on a beautiful rainy day! However, this climatic change is also a significant factor responsible for the spread of various infections. How can we prevent ourselves common diseases during rainy season?

Be careful of what you eat

We all love to munch on roadside chaats in the monsoon; however, these are often contaminated. Other commonly contaminated foods include uncooked vegetables, meat, seafood, unpeeled fruits and unpasteurised milk and dairy products. When you eat such things, food- and water-borne organisms are transmitted that can cause acute infections and diarrhoea [also called Traveller’s diarrhoea]. Watery diarrhoea is the predominant complaint; however, a small percentage of people may also have blood in their stools. Diarrhoea generally lasts for one to three days and is sometimes accompanied by abdominal pain.

Treatment is required for any symptoms that persist as well as for bloody diarrhoea and visible signs of dehydration. For severe diarrhoea [more than 4 stools per day] with or without traces of blood, a course of antibiotics is best.

Precautions to take

  • Foods served steaming hot are best
  • Avoid eating at unhygienic commercial establishments
  • Drink bottled or boiled water
  • Carry some oral rehydration solution when travelling with children and ask your physician to suggest an antibiotic, which can be included in your medical kit.

Give cholera the boot

Cholera is a severe form of infection that can lead to dehydration due to the diarrhoea. A person with cholera may sometimes also need to be hospitalised for treatment. The risk factors of acquiring cholera are similar to those of Traveller’s diarrhoea. High standards of personal hygiene practised by those handling food and those consuming it can help in reducing the spread of any diarrhoeal illnesses.

And then there is Hepatitis A

Another common infection transmitted by ingestion of contaminated food or water is Hepatitis A. Symptoms include malaise, loss of appetite and fever followed by jaundice. The disease is self limiting and only symptom-based treatment is given. The disease is also now preventable by giving a vaccine to children who are older than a year.

Look out for Leptospirosis

Flooding of the streets during monsoons is unavoidable. But be careful as you might get leptospirosis after being exposed to water contaminated by urine from infected rodents and other domestic animals. It is caused when mucous membranes or broken skin come into contact with contaminated water, moist soil or vegetation. Occasionally, infection also occurs through the ingestion/inhalation of food/droplet aerosols of fluids contaminated by urine. Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle pain and jaundice. Liver and kidney failure can also occur.

Precautions to take

  • Wear high gum boots/rain-proof boots
  • Avoid swimming in water that may be contaminated.

Chase those mosquitoes away

Accumulated rainwater, open jars of water or tyres left in dumps exposed to rain—all provide ideal sites for mosquito breeding. Various breeds of mosquitoes cause different life-threatening diseases. Malaria, caused by the female Anopheles mosquito, leads to fever and anaemia and can also give rise to severe organ disturbances, especially cerebral malaria. Dengue is caused by the Aedes egypti mosquito and symptoms include fever, headache, muscle, joint aches and skin rashes. There can be a drop in the platelet count, which can result in clinical bleeding.

Precautions to take

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants when travelling
  • Use mosquito repellent cream and mosquito nets

Wave pink eye goodbye

The rise and fall of temperature in quick succession, coupled with humidity, allergens and pollutants form a perfect environment for conjunctivitis. It spreads by direct or indirect touch or by swimming in contaminated water. Symptoms include reddish eyes, itching, discharge and matting of eye lashes. If not adequately treated, it can lead to corneal scarring, infectious keratitis and permanent reduction of vision. Treatments include washing the eyes frequently with cold water, antibiotic eye drops or ointment and tear substitutes.

Precautions to take

  • Avoid sharing towels, handkerchiefs and pillows
  • If you’ve been out, wash your hands after coming in
  • Do not let your hands touch your eyes, they might be contaminated
  • Contact lens users must be extra hygienic
  • Consult an ophthalmologist if your eyes become red.

This was first published in the July 2013 issue of Complete Wellbeing

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Mehul Choksi
Dr Mehul Choksi is a Consultant Gastroenterologist and Therapeutic Endoscopist with over 20 years of experience. Dr Choksi is well versed in Diagnostic and Therapeutic GI Endoscopy procedures. He is trained in the palliative stenting of advanced GI Malignancies. He has vast experience in treating Benign and Malignant GI Disorders.


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