Monsoon & Health

Mrs. Shakeel received a phone call in hurry. Hello, this is Miss Maria, your son Ahmad’s school teacher. Ahmad is suffering from repeated episodes of vomiting, please pick him up as soon as possible and seek necessary medical consultation.

Ahmad is not the only sufferer of gastroenteritis (commonly known as ‘gastro’). The number of cases increases to hundreds and even thousands in rainy summer seasons. The causative viruses and bacteria grow manifold during or after rains and affect almost every age group. School-going children are particularly vulnerable owing to their special interest in unhygienic food items like aalo chat, dahi bhalay, gola ganda, kulfi, etc available with the food vendors and canteens at schools.

Diarrhea and abdominal cramps are other symptoms along with vomiting. If not taken care of properly the symptoms could be so devastating that death may result. Infants and toddlers are easy prey as compared to adults hence need more care.

Gastro is one, from a long list of summer diseases which get aggravated as a result of increased humidity of monsoon. Others include typhoid, hepatitis A and E, cholera, throat, skin and eye infections. Geographical location and climate conditions of Pakistan favour flourishing of food and water-borne diseases in summer so much so that summer is regarded as Doctor’s season.

Hundreds of people fall ill while suffering from one of the mentioned diseases and a handsome amount is transferred from their pocket to that of the doctors during the course of treatment! Observing some basic hygienic precautionary measures can save money as well as precious life.

Major cause of these water-borne diseases like cholera, typhoid, hepatitis A and E outbreaks is consumption of polluted water and contaminated food items sold by roadside vendors. Poor water and sewerage infrastructure allowing contamination of drinking water makes it hazardous rather a real threat to health. A simple way out is to consume boiled water for drinking and cooking purposes. (Subjected to availability of water and gas).

People working in fruit/vegetable markets/shops are at even greater risk of the food and water-borne diseases. So are the roadside vendors in addition to be a major source of spread of the diseases like cholera, typhoid, gastro or hepatitis, the sellers themselves suffer too. This is because of close contact with the causative organisms and unhygienic conditions associated with them. Fruits and vegetables are wasted in bulk quantity in such season while the management of this bulk waste is poor, it adds sources of infectious agents and diseases break out more and the vicious circle goes on.

Stagnant water after rainfall becomes highly polluted with different chemicals and micro-organisms and can cause various skin and eye diseases. Such collections should be cleaned altogether if possible or at least the children should be made to avoid playing in accumulated rainwater. They should rather be offered clean and dry indoor playing areas. Moreover, sun screen (with at least Sun Protection Factor of 15) and coloured glasses should always be worn to protect skin and eyes from hazardous UV sun rays. Remember unprotected exposure to dangerous UV rays for longer periods might initiate skin cancers!

Food reserves at hotels, restaurants, etc are most of the times stored for many days which is an ideal flourishing medium for micro-organisms. So outdoor meals should be avoided as maximum as possible, especially during rainy season. Fresh food made with clean hands using clean ingredients in clean environment should be consumed.

Dehydration is a common ailment affecting a number of individuals in summer/monsoon season. This leads to body aches, cramps in legs, weakness, lethargy fever and even fainting spell. Easiest way to address the problem is rehydration. Plenty of fluids should be consumed so that the loss is adequately replenished. One should take water bottles along if going somewhere out for long durations. As stated earlier infants and toddlers require special attention in this regard. It is easy for the age group to get dehydrated soon. Be sure that they are receiving appropriate amount of fluids, not being over or under hydrated.

Sudden change in temperature levels badly affects health. People working in air-conditioned offices must not step out in the heat suddenly. It would rather be safer to stand in the shade for a few minutes before exposing the body to high temperature. Clothing should be comfortable. Synthetic material should be avoided specially kids should be worn light, comfortable cotton dresses. Most of fancy kids dresses are mixed, dressing up kids in fancy synthetic clothing in summer or monsoon could be very harmful.

Yet another challenge to be faced this year too would be ‘Dengue’ in monsoon season. It is a water-borne diseases caused by a specific striped mosquito. The mosquito characteristically breeds in clean stagnant water wherever it is collected. Symptoms include headache, continuous fever and rash, and there is no definite treatment except supportive treatment.  All measures should be taken to remove any possible sources of generation of the mosquitoes. Use of effective mosquito repellents and nets should be practised and advocated. Full sleeves dresses should be selected to be worn for adults as well as kids.

Mosquitoes causing malaria too flourish much more rapidly in rainy season. The symptoms are very similar to those of dengue this is why it is often misdiagnosed as dengue. Though management plan is not affected. So every possible measure should be taken to avoid mosquito bite.

In a nutshell it’s always easy to prevent than cure the disease. Life, specially a healthy one is the greatest possible blessing of Almighty and it should be taken care of in every respect.

By: Dr Mah Jabeen Muneera


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