Last week, we told you how the rains can wreck havoc on the surface. This week, we’re digging deeper. Rhea Dhanbhoora & Dev Goswami bring you a guide to keeping yourself free of monsoon ailments
Are you down with a case of the sniffles? Do you shiver all of a sudden? Well, it looks like the monsoon has caught up with you! Dr. Pradip Shah, a senior consultant from Fortis Hospital, says, “Apart from serious illnesses such as malaria, dengue and leptospirosis, there are several other internal problems that you could be at risk of during the monsoon. Problems such as loose motions, vomiting, indigestion, cough, cold and fever are common during the monsoon.” We ask the experts (Dr. Jatinder Bhatia from Metropolis Healthcare Ltd, Dr. Vimal Pahuja from Hiranandani Hospital, Dr. Shreepad Khedekar from Imperial Clinics and Dr. Gautam Sen from Healthspring Community Medical Centers) and find out how the weather is putting you at risk and how to keep yourself protected.
Think monsoon and we think about malaria, typhoid and jaundice. But, this deadly trio is not the only thing you should be on guard against. Here is a list of other prevalent conditions:
E.N.T problems: This includes problems such as colds, coughs, nasal blockages and throat itches. Keep in mind that if you feel as if someone has covered your ears with something thick, it is a sign of an upcoming cold.
Eyes: Don’t find wearing sunglasses during monsoon cool? Well, if you don’t take care, you might have to. It might be raining outside but if your eyes are dry, it could cause conjunctivitis. The reason for it being prevalent is that contaminated water can lead to the spread of this disease.
Chest: The humidity can cause breathing problems and asthma is one of the most common problems during the monsoon. If you already suffer from asthma or any other breathing problems, you will have to take extra care to be safe during the rains. Pneumonia and bronchitis can also be caused due to the high humidity and condition such as malaria, dengue and viral fever can give rise to acute respiratory distress syndrome.
Heart: We never thought that the monsoon could be connected to a heart problem! Well it is connected, but indirectly. A severe case of viral fever can reach your heart and cause a condition known as myocarditis wherein the heart muscle inflates which can lead to symptoms of heart failure.
Gastrointestinal: Gastrointestinal problems include the most infamous conditions such as diarrhea, acute gastroenteritis and typhoid. These are all common during the monsoon and have the same cause — contaminated water or food.
Kidney problems: The rains are responsible for breeding mosquitoes, which in turn can lead to serious conditions such as malaria and dengue fever. And the chain doesn’t end there. While treatment for both is available, a very severe case of the conditions can lead to acute kidney failure.
Now that you know about the range of conditions that are prevalent during the monsoon, you need to recognise them. The best thing for you would be to go to a doctor at the first sign of a fever. He will probably put you on medication for viral fever. However, it would be best if you get a blood test (which is the best way to identify the condition)… it is better to be safe than sorry.
Confused about why the season is bringing about so many problems? Here are a few reasons why you may keep falling ill during the monsoon:
- Most diseases are waterborne, so if you’re eating infected food, drinking dirty water or are around stagnated or contaminated water, consider yourself at risk.
- The weather may be a breeding ground for illness, but you could be contributing to it if you’ve got poor hygiene. Eating outside food is one of the easiest ways to catch an illness, so beware!
- Milk and milk products are a source of infection, so make sure they come from a reliable source or avoid them in this season.
- Mosquitoes are one of the strongest reasons for ailments and illness this season, so dab on the mosquito repellent and keep yourself covered as far as possible.
You can save yourself a lot of hassle if you take adequate precautions this season. The things that you need to keep in mind and stay away from are quite common. Yet, we give you a list of things that you should be doing to protect yourself:
- Avoid outside food and avoid roadside drinks as you can never be sure of the water source.
- Keep all food in the fridge or in air tight containers as moisture often makes the food a fertile ground for bacterial breeding.
- If you have pots or vases with water in them, make sure that you change the water every day to prevent mosquitoes from breeding.
- Boil your drinking water. Water purifying equipment does work but you can never go wrong with the plain old method of boiling water.
- Wash raw vegetables and fruits. Wash your hands with soap before eating to avoid parasitic infections. Also, ensure that your utensils are dried after washing them as a moist environment can lead to bacterial built-up.
Dissecting your diet
The monsoon is the worst time to indulge your street food cravings. Pallavi Srivastava, a nutritionist from Evolve Medspa, tells us, “During the monsoon, there is a high amount of humidity due to which our digestive system gets sluggish and so, eating the right kind of food and getting optimal nutrition becomes very important to prevent yourself from contracting various diseases and health hazards.”
Pallavi gives us a few dietary tips and foods you need to stay far away from during the monsoon:
- You should avoid eating raw foods or cut fruits during the rains, as they might have germs on them.
- You should always restrict eating outside food.
- Avoid fried foods or overcooked foods as they decrease the digestive efficiency all the more.
- Avoid oily and spicy food as they cause stomach problems.
- Avoid salads or choose warm salads as there are high chances of infections during this season.
- Try to avoid too much of fish or meat. Instead opt for green vegetables, cereals and fresh fruits.
- To avoid water retention, do not eat sour foods such as pickles, imli and chutneys which become heavy on the body as they contain high amounts of sodium.
- Avoid excessive intake of coffee and tea as it dehydrates you.
While there are a lot of foods you need to stay away from, Pallavi tells you what you should indulge in during the monsoon:
- Opting for grilled, tandoori foods which need minimum oil/butter is a good option.
- Consume bitter vegetables such as karela and bitter herbs such as basil, methi and turmeric as they help the body fight infection.
- A variety of fruits should be consumed, fruits such as apples, plums, lychees will be helpful, plus vegetables such as spinach, carrots, cauliflower, radish, fenugreek and lettuce should also form a part of the diet, which will help in consuming a well balanced diet daily which will in turn help to maintain good immunity levels in the body.
- It is necessary to keep your body warm and hence it is advisable to start your day with ginger and basil tea or green tea. It prevents you from coughs and colds as well as helps to maintain a good immunity and fight infections.
- You can also include raw garlic in your diet. Garlic consists of anti-viral and anti-fungal activities that cure cold, stomach infections and increases your overall stamina.
Apart from what to avoid eating and what to eat, Pallavi says that we need to be a lot more aware about how we eat certain things and even how we prepare our food in the monsoon. She gives us a few guidelines to keep in mind:
- Vegetables should be washed with clean water and it is better to steam whichever vegetables possible.
- Green leafy vegetables have a good amount of nutrients in them. But, make sure they are properly washed with warm water or with salt water to get rid of the accumulated dirt which is high during the monsoons.
- Try and make sure that the food you eat during the monsoon is warm.
- Don’t eat too little or too much. It’s best to eat in moderation during this season.
- To avoid suffering from gastric problems such as gas, acidity and bloating it’s best advised to eat a well balanced meal with minimal oil and masala.
Prevention is better than cure, but if and when you need a cure, here are a few things you can do for yourself at home, instead of running to the doctor:
- If you’ve got diarrhea or dysentery, be careful about getting dehydrated. Drink a lot of rehydration powders and make sure you’ve got ample fluids in your system.
- If you’ve been struck by throat pains or a common cold, drink boiled water and gargle with warm water and salt. You can also try steam inhalation.
- For colds and coughs, try ginger tea or a mixture of honey and lemon in warm water.
What you should do
Your best option when you think you are suffering from a serious condition is seeing a doctor. Taking a paracetamol and drinking plenty fluids will also help but avoid taking antibiotics without consulting a doctor. All the doctors we spoke to are emphatic in their opinion that you should turn towards professional help as soon as possible.