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Common, contagious, but curable

health-and-fitness Updated: Jul 13, 2011 02:34 IST
Highlight Story

The end of summer vacation and the onset of monsoons bring with them viral influenza. Amid the rising humidity and the reopening of schools, viral infections start rising at a phenomenal rate. City clinics and hospitals have already been flooded with people complaining of high fever, cough, runny nose, body ache — all symptoms indicative of viral influenza.

Not just that, over the past 10 days — since the opening of most schools on July 4 — viral infections have more than doubled. “Children infect each other easily and over the past week, I’ve been getting more than 25 cases of viral fever a week. Till about two weeks ago, the number was as low as five cases a week. The warm and humid weather is proving to be a fertile ground for viruses and bacteria to grow and spread rapidly,” said Dr Ritesh Gupta, senior consultant, internal medicine, Fortis Hospital, Vasant Kunj.

Apart from viral influenza, the rising humidity also affects people with asthma and respiratory tract infections adversely. For people such as Kuldeep Gulati, 56, an asthma patient, severe wheezing has become a part of her life for over a week now. She can’t step out of her home without an inhaler. “The humidity following the rains often aggravates my breathing problem. The asthma attacks become so frequent that I can’t step out of home for days,” said Gulati, a resident of west Delhi’s Patel Nagar area.

Lung trouble
Doctors advise people with asthma and associated airway sensitivity to take precautions such as carrying inhalers with them at all times. “Upper respiratory infections are also common these days, as people with sensitive airways have trouble dealing with heavy air and fluctuating temperatures. It can get worse if the heart and lungs get involved,” said Dr RP Singh, head, internal medicine, Rockland Hospital.

Pneumonia cases also shoot up during the monsoons. “Young children, pregnant women and older people are most prone to getting infected in this weather because they have lower immunity. They should visit a doctor at the first sign of chest infection,” said Dr Randeep Guleria, pulmonologist, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (Aiims).

For the Saha family, the past 10 days have been a nightmare. Anjali Saha (name changed on request), 36 weeks pregnant, had to be hospitalised at Fortis, Noida, because she suddenly developed severe pneumonia. “We were shocked to know that change in weather had affected her lungs so badly. For eight days, she was on ventilator. We are still not sure how exactly she got the disease,” said her husband.

Apart from sporadic cases of chickenpox, conjunctivitis is also on the rise. “We get about 15 cases of conjunctivitis each day, mostly among school-going children. The number is expected to rise over the next week as viruses spread faster when the weather gets humid,” said Dr Ajay Sharma, co-founder, Eye-Q, super-specialty eye hospital.

Treatment
Viral infections are self-limiting and do not need a course of antibiotic medicines, which are used to treat bacterial. However, since every bout of fever dehydrates you, doctors advise people with fever to consume huge amounts of water with electrolytes (salt). On an average, a person down with viral fever should drink at least three litres of liquids in the form of water, lemonade, coconut water, buttermilk etc to maintain the electrolyte balance in their body.

The elderly and children should be taken to a doctor as soon as the symptoms appear. Doctors say medicines such as brufen, combiflam and nimesulide should not be taken, as they can affect the platelet count, which can be dangerous if the fever is caused by dengue. Paracetamol is the safest medicine to take to bring down fever. If high fever persists beyond two days, visit a doctor to screen out other illnesses such as dengue and malaria.

Monsoon maladies