Why do we fall ill during rainy season? And how to prevent them?
At a Glance:
- What are the common mosquito-borne illnesses occurring in the monsoon?
- How mosquito-borne illnesses spread and how can we prevent it?
- How to reduce exposure to mosquitoes and prevent malaria, dengue and other mosquito-borne illness?
- How are mosquito-borne illnesses diagnosed and treated?
- What are the common air-borne illnesses occurring in the monsoon?
- What are the preventive measures against air-borne illnesses?
Come monsoon, in India it rains all along the south coast bringing the much needful cooling effect to the land, and initiating the seasonal farming all over the region. However, monsoon also brings with it some of the common air-borne and water-borne diseases that include Malaria, Dengue fever, Chikungunya, Typhoid, Cholera, Hepatitis A and Common Cold.
Incessant rains, cool breeze and wind, and damp clothes are all the conditions that are favourable for the infectious organisms to thrive, spread and cause diseases. Parasites, bacteria, viruses and fungus tend to flourish and thrive in habitable droplets of water in the air and stagnant water in the potholes.
Some people are prone to infectious diseases more than the others due to compromised immunity, poor diet, stress and other pre-existing health conditions. White blood cells are the defence system of the body that fight the infections and keep us healthy. When these cells become weak or less in number the person is more prone to infections. Therefore, it is important to adopt suitable preventive measures against infections that spread through carriers such as mosquitos, air, water and food.
Staying healthy during the rainy season is a challenge which needs special attention to personal hygiene, cleanliness of the surroundings, and care during travel. Let us understand in depth how diseases spread through different medium and how we can safeguard ourselves from them.
What are the common mosquito-borne illnesses occurring in the monsoon?
Some of the diseases commonly transmitted by the mosquitos in India are:
- Dengue fever
- Lymphatic filariasis
- Japanese encephalitis
It is a mosquito-borne illness affecting the blood. The female Anopheles mosquito passes the plasmodium parasite into the bloodstream of the person through the bite.
The malarial parasite matures in the liver and infects red blood cells. The parasite may remain in the dormant in the liver for as long as a year and hence may cause a recurrence. Malarial infection is characterized by symptoms such as:
- Moderate to severe chills
- High fever and sweating
There is no vaccine against malarial parasite yet. However malaria can be treated with prescription medicines, which varies basis your age, severity of symptoms, type of parasite and whether you are pregnant.
If you notice any of the symptoms above, it is important to consult a general physician. When untreated, malaria can become severe and life threatening. Some of the complications of malaria are:
- Cerebral malaria is a neurological complication that occurs when infected red blood cells reach brain. It is characterized by breathing problems and coma.
- Breathing problems
- Organ failure
- Anemia (low haemoglobin/iron content in blood)
- Low blood sugar
- Kidney failure
- Jaundice (yellow coloration of skin, nails, eyes etc.)
It is a painful, debilitating fever transmitted by the bite of Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitos infected with dengue virus. The infected person may present symptoms on the fourth to the sixth day after infection that lasts for up to 10 days. Initially, the symptoms may be confused with common flu or viral infection. However, look for the following symptoms and visit the doctor immediately.
- Sudden, high fever
- Severe headaches
- Pain behind the eyes
- Severe joint and muscle pain
- Skin rash
- Mild bleeding of the nose, gums or easy bruising
Some of the complications of dengue include:
- Dengue haemorrhagic fever: A rare complication of dengue that causes high fever, damage to lymph and blood vessels.
- Enlargement of liver
- Failure of the circulatory system
- Dengue shock syndrome: Mild bleeding from the nose or gums, may progress to massive bleeding, shock and death
One dengue fever vaccine, Dengvaxia is available for people aged 9 to 45 years of age. However, the vaccine is not effective and has slightly more than half the chances of infection. Doctors treat dengue fever symptomatically and recommend hydration to manage symptoms such as fever and vomiting. For immediate relief, use paracetamol and consult the doctor immediately, but avoid pain relievers that cause bleeding complications, such as aspirin, ibuprofen etc.
Chikungunya is a viral disease transmitted to humans by the bite of Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes. These are the same mosquitos that spread dengue. It is a misbelief that chikungunya spreads through chicken or hen. Once infected, the symptoms appear in 3 to 8 days, which are similar to that of dengue fever and Zika virus infection:
- Debilitating joint and muscle pain, the pain may be relieved in a week or in others the pain is felt for months.
- Joint swelling
- Skin rash
Chikungunya is a self-remitting illness. In rare cases, it may cause certain complications such as:
- Neurological imbalance
- Acute renal disease
- Skin lesions
How mosquito-borne illnesses spread and how can we prevent it?
The mosquitos become infected with the parasite/virus and spread it to the people through bites. The mosquitos transmit dengue fever and chikungunya during the day and the night. These diseases may also be spread through infected blood and from the mother to the newborn during birth or breastfeeding.
Preventing the growth of mosquitos:
- Avoid sources of standing water: Cover the containers with water especially in the kitchen, swimming pools, gardens and indoor plant pots/pans. Check the plumbing, air coolers, water leaks.
- Grow some mosquito repellent plants such as mint (Pudina), basil (Tulsi), marigold, etc.
- Cover the puddles, pot holes, and ditches with soil.
How to reduce exposure to mosquitoes and prevent malaria, dengue and other mosquito-borne illness?
Reducing your exposure to mosquitos:
- Spraying insecticide at the entrance and walls to prevent entry of mosquitos inside the home.
- Sleeping under a bed net treated with insecticide, recommended for pregnant women and young children.
- Covering your skin with long pants and long-sleeved shirts.
- Using mosquito repellent coil or liquid at night.
- Using mosquito repellent creams, roll-ons or sprays containing DEET on cloth and skin.
- Avoiding stagnation of water in and the vicinity of the house.
How are mosquito-borne illnesses diagnosed and treated?
General physicians recommend quick detection using lab tests and prompt medical care. Make sure you visit the doctor and follow his advice:
- Prescription medicines
- Intravenous fluid and electrolyte replacement
- Blood transfusion to replace blood loss
- Paracetamol is the only pain killer preferred. NSAIDs such as aspirin are avoided to prevent complications of bleeding.
What are the common air-borne illnesses occurring in the monsoon?
Some of the diseases commonly transmitted through infection droplets in the air are:
- Viral fever is a group of illnesses that are caused by the viral infection transmitted through contact with bodily fluids of the infected person.
- Influenza, commonly known as flu, is caused by the influenza virus and characterized by fever, cough, nasal congestion, runny nose, muscle pain, headache, and fatigue.
- Common cold is quite common in the rainy season. It is marked by constant sneezing, sore throat and fever. You may get cold by getting drenched in the rain.
They are characterized by symptoms such as:
- Constant sneezing
- Sore throat
- Body ache
These illnesses are very common around the world and become more prevalent during the monsoon season. Usually, they are self-remitting and do not require antibiotics. Some of the common home remedies like hot milk with a pinch of turmeric, and gargling with warm water are proven to be quite effective in the treatment of cold and sore throat.
However, it is important to see your doctor to rule out any other serious infections or complications.
What are the preventive measures against air-borne illnesses?
- Avoid contact with the obviously infected person
- Stay home when you are sick
- Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze
- Wash your hand thoroughly, especially after sneezing or coughing
- Avoid touching your face, eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
- Prevent cold by taking the needful precautions viz. carrying an umbrella, wearing a rain coat
- Keeping away from high air-conditioned rooms and avoiding ice-creams and cold drinks
What are the common water/food-borne illnesses occurring in the monsoon?
Consumption of unhygienic food and water can cause several diseases.
- Cholera is characterized by diarrhea with watery stools, vomiting, water loss and muscle cramps. Certain preventive measures may be followed to keep cholera at bay, which includes, boiling water before using, maintaining personal hygiene and good sanitation. Taking a vaccine to prevent cholera is also the right preventive measure.
- Typhoid: Monsoon or rainy season offers an ideal ground for typhoid, which is a highly infectious disease. Typhoid is marked by headache and severe pain in the abdomen. Getting vaccinated, isolating the infected from other members of the family is important. Typhoid may recur, so close monitoring of each case is crucial in the treatment of Typhoid.
- Hepatitis A is an epidemic caused by flies, and can even spread by direct contact with the patient. It is marked by headache, painful joints and vomiting. Hepatitis A can be prevented by vaccination. High calorie diet with adequate rest and strict avoidance of fat and oily food helps in early recovery.
- Food poisoning, also known as food borne illness, is caused by several infectious organisms such as bacteria, virus, parasites and their toxins. Some of the common infections include hepatitis A, E-coli, listeria, etc.
- Jaundice is the yellow coloration of skin, mucous, whites of the eyes due to increased amounts of bilirubin in the blood.
- Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection that spreads through food and water contaminated by rat and other animals. It is characterized by headache, muscle pain, eye pain with bright lights, chills and fever, abdominal pain, diarrhea and rash.
What are the preventive measures against water/food-borne illnesses?
Preventing water/food-borne diseases outdoors:
- Avoid road-side food
- Use hand sanitizers regularly
- Avoid walking in stagnant water especially near garbage sites.
- If you happen to walk in water then wash your legs with clean water.
- If you have scratches and cuts use an adhesive bandage to cover the wound.
- Use adequate footwear like gum boots if you have to walk through water-logged areas regularly as prevention is better than cure.
- Use stones or wooden logs over water-logged areas so that you avoid walking in water.
Preventing water/food-borne diseases indoors:
- Drink clean water from the purifier
- Wash your hands more often, at least for 20 seconds.
- Use separate hand towels
- Keep your garments dry
- Avoid eating raw food such as salads
- Keep raw food separate from ready-to-eat food
- Cook foods to a safe temperature
- Refrigerate or freeze perishable foods promptly
- Throw it out when in doubt
- Use pasteurized milk and its products only
Monsoon is the time to enjoy the rains, and take enough safeguards against a variety of diseases which may cause serious health issues. Monsoon brings with it different water and air borne diseases. Being better informed and aware of certain quick remedies helps you to be more prepared, and cope with illnesses of the rainy season. Importantly, parents of newborns and small children need to be extra-careful during rainy season to prevent diseases of the monsoon. Timely visit to the family doctor or specialist saves you from further health problems.