The randomly fluctuating mercury over the last month has resulted in an increase in respiratory tract infections in the city, said doctors.
“Since mid-February, I have seen a three times the number of patients with viral flu, cough and fever. Earlier, I would treat four such patients a week, which has now increased to about 12,” said Dr Altaf Patel, director of medicine, Jaslok Hospital, Peddar Road.
Patel blamed the poor quality of air for the increase. “People go out for walks early in the morning, but the air quality is at its worst at that time,” he said.
Dr Anita Matthews, infectious disease specialist at Lokmanya Tilak Municipal General Hospital, Sion, said that all viral infections are on the rise. “Viruses thrive in fluctuating temperatures. Mornings are cooler and it gets hot in the afternoons that helps the microbes breed,” she said.
“I have seen at least seven cases of chicken pox in the last fortnight. Asthma patients are complaining of breathlessness and wheezing. There is an increase in conjunctivitis patients,” she added.
Dr Om Srivastava, an infectious disease consultant in the city, said that cases of human parainfluenza have been predominant this season. “Unlike influenza, parainfluenza infections last longer as the virus behaves differently. They are associated with joint pains and patients must take vaccines,” he said. “It is important that people take medicines only after consulting a doctor.”
Dr Anil Ballani, consultant physician at PD Hinduja Hospital, Mahim said that he was avoiding antibiotics to treat patients. “I am prescribing paracetamol and antihistamines. I have been advising patients to avoid early morning walks, increase their water intake to stay hydrated and avoid cold food, such as ice cream,” he said.
Record breaking temperatures, fluctuations in Jan-Feb
Between January and February 2017, Mumbai already observed record-breaking day temperatures, with January 23 being the second-hottest January day in eight years, followed by February 18, which was the second-hottest February day this decade. The second week of February saw maximum temperatures swing between 36 and 38 degrees Celsius, 6 to 8 degrees Celsius above normal.
In February, the city also observed constant fluctuations in the day and night temperatures. On some days, it was about 8 degrees Celsius above normal and subsequently, a drop was observed with day temperatures close to normal and night temperatures below normal.
Difference in day, night temperatures leading to cough, cold and viral fever: IMD
“In February, the city was had warm easterly and north-easterly winds. Humidity (rise in moisture) was also high. However, by the evening, the wind pattern shifted from northerly to north westerly. Cold wind came in from the north and humidity levels dropped from 6pm onwards. This kind of fluctuation leads to viral diseases such as cough, cold and fever,” said Shubhangi Bhute, director, Regional Meteorological Centre, India Meteorological Department.
Temperatures on Thursday
Maximum temperature at Santacruz (representative of the suburbs): 32 degrees Celsius, 0.1 degree Celsius below normal
Maximum temperature at Colaba (representative of south Mumbai): 30.5 degrees Celsius, 0.2 degree Celsius below normal
· Minimum temperature at Santacruz: 20.8 degrees Celsius, 0.5 degree Celsius above normal
· Minimum temperature at Colaba: 24.4 degrees Celsius, 2.5 degree Celsius above normal
· Moisture levels were high in south Mumbai with 64% humidity while 36% was recorded at the suburbs.
Air Quality Index in Mumbai on Thursday: 122 (moderate)
Air Quality Index in Mumbai expected for Friday: 123 (moderate)
What to do
- Asthmatics should increase the dose of bronchodilators
- Avoid having chilled drinks and ice-creams
- Take vaccines for influenza and pneumonia
- Wash hands with soap before meals
- Get enough sleep
- Drink adequate water
What not to do
- Patients with viral infections must stay indoors and not step outdoors
- Don’t take antibiotics for viral infections
- Avoid stepping out for early morning walks