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Heatwave triggers spike in number of gastrointestinal, food-borne illnesses

Private hospitals in the city too reported an around 50% rise in the number of patients of diarrhoea and stomach pain.

gurgaon Updated: Jun 13, 2019 07:58 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Gurugram
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Laborers work at a brick kiln on a hot summer day in Noida, on the outskirts of New Delhi, India, on Saturday, May 30, 2015. ((Photo by Burhaan Kinu / Hindustan Times))

Extreme heat conditions this month have led to a surge in the number of patients with gastrointestinal diseases in hospitals, said doctors, adding that most cases received have been of food-borne gastroenteritis, as severe heat promotes the growth of bacteria in food.

The Civil Hospital in Sector 10, which currently has the only government-run out-patient department (OPD), has seen more than 50 patients of gastroenteritis daily so far this month, according to data with the health department. This number in May, before the heatwaves began, was around 10-15, officials said, adding that most complaints have been of diarrhoea, stomach pain and bloating.

A heatwave is declared when the maximum temperature is 40 degrees Celsius or more, and sees a departure of between 4.5 to 6.4 degrees Celsius from the normal for three consecutive days. The India Meteorological Department (IMD) declared a heatwave in the first week of June.

Private hospitals in the city too reported an around 50% rise in the number of patients of diarrhoea and stomach pain. Doctors in at least three private hospitals said they attended close to 15 patients a day in the past four to five days, as compared to around eight or nine previously.

“When heatwaves occur, they have an immediate impact on the risk for flare-ups in gastrointestinal diseases. Heatwaves also change the bacterial composition of the gastrointestinal tract,” Dr Shweta Kumar, a city-based physician, said. She added that heatwaves also cause more physical stress, which leads to a higher risk of intestinal diseases.

Doctors advised storing food safely. “Perishable food shouldn’t be stored for more than two hours in room temperature during summers,” said Kumar.

Experts said eating more fruits and herbs that soothe the stomach such as papaya, pineapple, and drinking fluids regularly can help avoid stomach issues.

“Only bottled/filtered water should be consumed outside,” said Dr Amitabh Parthi, internal medicine specialist at a private hospital.

First Published: Jun 13, 2019 02:45 IST