How to face monsoon travails - The New Indian Express

How to face monsoon travails

Published: 10th August 2014 06:00 AM

Last Updated: 09th August 2014 06:41 PM

BANGALORE: If you think rains can only cause cough and cold, then you could be mistaken. Rains bring with them, a slew of allergies such as Allergic rhinitis caused by inflammation of the nasal airway and Aquagenic urticaria. Moulds are a common cause of allergies and sinusitis. They thrive in flooded areas or zones dampened by rains.

Dr Sheela Chakravarthy, director of Internal Medicine at Fortis Hospitals, said, "Diseases commonly associated with monsoons are due to water stagnation, water contamination or new viruses that crop up due to the change in weather conditions. The wet weather promotes the widespread growth of microorganisms. It is important for people to be aware of the measures that prevent infections, so that children are protected from these monsoon maladies."

Dr Pramod V Sathya, consultant physician at Vikram Hospital said, "Allergies are highly individualised. Hence the patient has to look for triggers to his allergies. However, allergic skin testing and RAST (Radio Immuno Sorbent Test) may help. Anti allergic tablets, steroids, nasal sprays and inhalers help in treating allergies."

Experts say Aquagenic urticaria leads to itching in the body, especially during a swim or a shower. It is a very rare skin condition and unlike other kinds of allergies, no rashes are seen. Rains can worsen the case hence people with this allergy are advised not to step out in the rain and they must always carry an umbrella.

Symptoms to watch out for

Patients with hives have raised red bumps all over the skin, when exposed to water. Whenever, water comes in contact with the skin, they suffer from pain and an itch. The itch can last for a few minutes or hours depending on the severity of the allergy and the sensitivity of the skin.


Although researchers are still uncertain about the exact cause of such an allergy, they agree, it is due to an extreme level of sensitivity of the skin towards the different added ingredients in the water. These ingredients include chlorine, deposits of minerals and fluoride. Dr K Sreenivas, consultant ENT surgeon, Vikram Hospital, said, "Allergy is an hyper immune state, where a sensitive individual will react to an allergen (pollen, dust, smoke etc) by developing rhinorrhea (running nose), sneezing, itching, blocked nose. It can be diagnosed  through nasal endoscopy, blood tests and through skin prick test."

Triggers and prevention

Dust mites: Bangalore has seen an increase in the number of house dust mites. These are micro-organisms living in our bed linen. The best way to tackle them is by washing bed linen with hot water which is more important than the detergent.

Dust: One must wear a layered mask while dusting or cleaning.

Smoke: Avoid smoke in all forms- agarbathis, dhoop stick; say no to smoking.

Woolen carpets and curtains: Steer clear of them as they attract dust.

Pigeon allergens: Allergies to bird feather and bird fecal matter have been on a rise in Bangalore. Pest control has to be done if  pigeons are living in the loft of a bed room or the living room.    

Food allergies: Atopic (highly sensitive to allergens) individuals are also susceptible to food allergies.

Water borne diseases

Water borne diseases like gastroenteritis (diarrhea), typhoid, hepatitis are common during monsoons. Diseases due to water stagnation like dengue and malaria can be fatal if not treated on time. Other diseases like Influenza and bacterial infections often occur during monsoons.


Gastroenteritis occurs due to bacteria or viruses present in water. Symptoms include vomiting and diarrhea, which could cause dehydration. Early treatment is mandatory. Stool examination gives doctors a clue about the type of organism causing the condition.

   Treatment involves the replenishment of not only water but also salts.

   This could be easily achieved by rehydration methods such as drinking electrolyte solutions, tender coconut water, oral rehydration solutions (ORS), buttermilk and lime juice. These fluids must be taken in small quantities.


Typhoid is a bacterial infection caused by  the contamination of potable water with sewage water. It manifests in continuous high fever lasting longer than a week. It can be diagnosed by a blood test. Immediate diagnosis of typhoid is important because if left untreated, it could lead to complications such as perforation and bleeding of the intestine. Typhoid is preventable by vaccine once every three years.


Hepatitis is caused by a viral infection of the liver due to two water borne viruses, Hepatitis A and E viruses. Hepatitis manifests as jaundice, vomiting, abdominal pain and confusion (due to low blood sugar). If one contracts this infection during pregnancy, it could be fatal for the mother and child.

Since the liver constantly maintains the blood sugar between meals, the treatment for hepatitis is by continuously replenishing the body with glucose based solutions.

Hospitalisation may be required if the complications of hepatitis such as convulsions, liver failure and delirium occur. Hepatitis A can be prevented by vaccination. However, there is no vaccine to prevent Hepatitis E.

Diseases due to water stagnation

Dengue fever: This common disease is caused by a bite

of Aedis egyptii mosquito which bites during the day.  Symptoms include high fever, body aches and extreme fatigue. The incubation period of dengue fever is three to 15 days.

Headache, muscular pain, joint pain, pain in the back of the eyes, weakness, loss of appetite and vomiting could be the symptoms. 

Other manifestations

Dengue hemorrhagic fever: This hemorrhagic fever could cause bleeding of gums, nose and other orifices. Blood in the vomit and blackish spots under the skin are not unusual.

Dengue shock syndrome: This type of dengue fever manifests with low blood pressure and could cause damage to multiple organs.

  Dengue shock syndrome may prove fatal in high risk patients such as pregnant women and the elderly. Early detection and treatment of dengue can prevent death. The treatment of dengue fever is mainly supportive. However, hospitalisation may be required if the patient develops evidence of shock, cold, drowsiness, irregular pulse and unconsciousness. Measures such as adequate fluids, healthy diet and platelet transfusion are required.


Malaria is caused by mosquito bites. The organisms that cause malaria belong to the plasmodium species, of which Falciparum is the most dangerous. Symptoms include high fever with shivering (lasting about 30 minutes). Malaria is endemic in some areas such as Mangalore, Goa and Pune. Malaria is treatable and early treatment can prevent death.

Diseases due to new viruses

"Viral infections are common after monsoon. With extensive international travel getting common nowadays, 'new viruses' are introduced. The influenza viruses constantly change, therefore, immunity by prior infection cannot be expected unlike in other bacterial infections. Although a 'flu vaccine' is available, it may not guarantee prevention all the time, however, the use of this vaccine should be encouraged in elderly population," Said Dr Chakravarthy.

The influenza viruses of two types could merge and cause dangerous fevers such as the ‘bird flu’ and the ‘swine flu’. Recently the world has experienced several epidemics of H1N1 and bird flu, which cause severe respiratory difficulty and if unattended, could lead to death. The spread of epidemic is mainly from person to person (while coughing and sneezing). It is extremely difficult to contain these contagions.

Diseases due to bacterial infections

Viral infections are predisposed to the multiplication of bacteria which otherwise reside in the human body as 'normal flora'. The lowered immunity due to viral infection predispose the population to secondary bacterial infections, such as sinusitis or pneumonia. These need antibiotic therapy and sometimes hospitalisation.

Aquagenic urticaria

Dr Pramod V Sathya talks about the treatments and causes of Aquagenic urticaria 

 It is treated using anti-histamines and steroid

 People who have such an allergy to water should avoid prolonged stay in the water

 They must apply an oil-based cream or oil-based gel before going for a swim or a bath.

 People who have extreme allergies may even benefit through phototherapy with filtered UVB or Psoralen UVA

  People who are allergic to water should stay away from spicy and fried food, coffee, or alcohol

  Carrying an umbrella and rain coat is also advised as rain water and stagnated water on roads mixed with foreign bodies may worsen allergies

  Consult a dermatologist before any kind of self medication

Home remedies

Dr Navinash Prasad, special officer, MS Ramaiah Wellness Centre gives us a list of home remedies

   Camphor or eucalyptus oil steam inhalation can help in decongestion

   Wear warm clothes and keep dry

   Boil water by adding three cloves, two cardamom sticks, and cinnamon (all made into coarse powder) for 15 minutes and drink it hot

   Eating curcuma (turmeric) and fresh ginger (1 tsp) before meals or after meals improves immune capacity. This will act both as a preventive and curative measure

   Fumigation with curcuma, dry ginger, acorus with help reduce the mucus secretion in upper and lower respiratory tract

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