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Monsoon Maladies – Most Common Monsoon Diseases, their Treatment and Prevention

Aug 13 2019 / Posted in Health

- By Dr. Harvinder Palaha, MD (Pediatrics),
Programme Director, Maternal and Newborn Programme, SNEHA, Mumbai

The monsoons bring relief from the scorching heat during summers but with their respite, they also bring along with them various maladies. Every monsoon season, the risk of catching various diseases is extremely high due to unhygienic conditions and not adhering to basic preventive measures.

We would like to share with you some general overall preventive health tips during this monsoon season for your wellbeing:

  • Drink only clean water as a preventive measure against water borne diseases like typhoid, jaundice, gastroenteritis and diarrhoea which are common due to contamination of drinking water sources. It is a good idea to drink only boiled water or water cleaned by a purifier.

  • Use separate hand towels to avoid the transmission of disease causing bacteria.

  • Cover your mouth and nose with a handkerchief while coughing or sneezing.

  • Use mosquito repellents and nets as dengue transmitting mosquitoes usually bite during day time either early morning or late evening, while those that cause malaria tend to bite at night.

  • Keep your garments dry to avoid catching fungal skin infections.

  • Consume freshly prepared food and avoid eating out as much as possible.

  • Avoid visiting crowded places.

  • Use hand sanitizers regularly.

Effects of monsoon illnesses on pregnant ladies and babies
Any illness during pregnancy can be a potential threat to the mother and the unborn baby. It is best to observe precautions like hygiene, vaccination, starting prophylactic treatment for a safe confinement and a healthy newborn. Some illnesses like malaria are transmitted from mother to baby in-utero. Apart from treating mothers during pregnancy, it is imperative to treat newborns also after delivery to avoid complications of malaria.

Many monsoon diseases remain undiagnosed until they progress to undesirable complications. This is why early diagnosis and treatment of diseases during rainy seasons is important. Here are some common diseases which are highly prevalent during this season that you should be aware about.

Influenza (Cold and Flu):
Common cold is a common illness during the monsoon season. It is a highly contagious disease due to the spread of virus in the air which infects the upper respiratory tract and thus affects the nose and the throat. Symptoms involve runny or stuffy nose, body ache, throat irritation, soreness and fever. It is always advisable to consult a physician and get the required medicines prescribed to get cured from the infection. The best way to prevent common cold is to have a regular healthy, balanced and nutritious diet which will develop the immune system and improve resistance.

Another most common and deadly bacterial disease that spreads during monsoons is cholera. This disease is caused by contaminated food and water and also poor hygienic conditions. Common symptoms of cholera are severe diarrhoea with watery stool and vomiting which causes immediate water loss and muscle cramps. Diarrhoea can be so severe at times that it leads within hours to severe dehydration and electrolyte imbalance.

Cholera requires immediate treatment because the disease can cause death within hours. The goal is to replace lost fluids and electrolytes using a simple rehydration solution, oral rehydration salts (ORS). The ORS solution is available as a powder that can be reconstituted in boiled or bottled water. Antibiotics are not a necessary part of cholera treatment. Preventive measures include providing clean drinking water, better sanitation, and better hand-washing.

Typhoid is another waterborne bacterial infection caused by bacteria called Salmonella. This disease is caused by contaminated food or drinking water. Symptoms of the diseases are prolonged high fever, severe abdomen pain, headache; vomits are common symptoms of this disease. The worst part is that the infection of this disease can remain in the gall bladder of the patient even after he/she is cured.

Hepatitis A:
Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection. It is a waterborne viral infection that is generally caused by contaminated drinking water or food. Eating fruits, vegetables, or other foods contaminated during handling can cause spread of infection. The symptom of this disease is directly related to the inflammation of the liver that's caused by a virus.

Symptoms include, jaundice (yellow eyes and skin, dark urine), stomach pain, loss of appetite, nausea, fever, diarrhoea and fatigue. Blood tests are used to detect the presence of hepatitis A in your body. No specific treatment exists for hepatitis A. In most cases, the liver heals within six months with no lasting damage. Management involves - rest, treatment of nausea and rest to liver.

Practicing good hygiene, including washing hands frequently, is one of the best ways to prevent hepatitis A. Vaccines are available for people most at risk.

Dengue is a disease caused by a family of viruses that are transmitted by mosquitoes. It is spread by what's known as the tiger mosquito (Aedes Aegypti), which has black and white stripes and typically bites early in the morning or at dawn.

Symptoms of dengue include severe joint and muscle pain, swollen lymph nodes, headache, fever, exhaustion, and rash. Complication of dengue fever is called dengue haemorrhagic fever (DHF). It is a specific syndrome that tends to affect children under 10 years of age. This complication of dengue causes abdominal pain, haemorrhage (bleeding), and circulatory collapse (shock).

There are no specific antibiotics or antiviral medication to treat it. For typical dengue, the treatment is concerned with relief of the symptoms and signs. Rest and fluid intake (oral rehydration) are important. Pain relievers such as aspirin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs should only be taken under a doctor's supervision because of the possibility of worsening bleeding complications.

Preventive measures:

  • As it is transmitted via mosquitoes, one should wear a strong insect repellent containing DEET to prevent getting bitten.

  • People should also wear full sleeve clothing when out in the day.

  • It is important to remember that the dengue mosquito usually bites only in the day time and breeds in clean, fresh water. So any water accumulation should be avoided.

One of the most common monsoon-related diseases, malaria, is caused by certain species of mosquitoes breeding in dirty water. Since, there is a problem of water logging during the rainy season, mosquitoes get conducive conditions to breed .This disease is spread by Female Anopheles mosquito. Most deaths are caused by P. falciparum and is the most dangerous type of malaria also known as Cerebral malaria. Other forms of malaria are P. vivax, P. ovale, and P. malariae.

Malaria is typically diagnosed by the microscopic examination of blood using blood films, or with antigen-based rapid diagnostic tests. It is characterized by fever, body ache, chills, and sweating. If untreated, it can lead to complications like jaundice, severe anaemia or even liver and kidney failure. Malaria is treated with antimalarial medications successfully.

Preventive measures:

  • Take an antimalarial drug as a precautionary measure in mosquito prone areas.

  • Also take measures to prevent mosquito bites such as wearing full sleeve clothing.

  • Application of anti repellent mosquito creams and electronic mosquito repellent devices can be used during the monsoon season to avoid mosquitoes at home.

  • Accumulation of dirty water must be kept in check to prevent malaria mosquito breeding.

  • Insecticide-treated mosquito nets (ITNs) and indoor residual spraying (IRS) have been shown to be highly effective in preventing malaria in your neighbourhood and can reduce breeding of mosquitoes also.

Viral fever:
Sudden weather changes often causes viral fevers characterized by fatigue, chills, body aches and fever. The illness is contagious and spreads through infection droplets in the air or by coming into physical contact with infected secretions. General duration of a viral fever lasts from 3 to 7 days, with the severity of the fever being the highest in the first three days.

The general treatment of side effects and symptoms using OTC drugs in consultation with a doctor, antihistamines, decongestants and antipyretic drugs are usually recommended. Viral diseases are generally self-limiting and generally do not need antibiotics unless there is a secondary infection.

Preventive measures:

  • One must ensure that they do not get wet in the rain or stay in wet clothes for a long period

  • Wash hands often

  • Boost immunity by eating Vitamin C rich foods and green leafy vegetables

  • Keep distance from an infected person.

Gastroenteritis and food poisoning are quite common during the monsoon season, and the high humidity helps in the growth of disease-causing bacteria. The general symptoms of gastroenteritis are stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea. Fever can develop and one may feel a sense of malaise and weakness through the course of the illness.

It is very important that you keep yourself hydrated at all times and a bland diet is recommended such as rice, curds, fruits such as banana, apple. Rice kanji water or coconut water is also a good line of treatment for hydration. ORS is generally recommended. Course of treatment is mainly to prevent dehydration and to control fever. Antibiotics are prescribed after evaluation of the condition of the patient.

Preventive measures:

  • Try and avoid eating raw food like salads because it is difficult to ascertain whether they have been washed, cleaned and stored at the right temperature.

  • Avoid roadside food which may be made in contaminated water and trigger diarrhoea.

In case you are experiencing symptoms and need treatment please contact your nearest hospital.

Stay safe and enjoy the rains!