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Time to take cover: There's something lurking in monsoon rainwater

We're all on the alert for the usual monsoon suspects - malaria, dengue, leptospirosis. But there are other dangers lurking in the rainwater. They start small, almost unnoticeable, but can pose real danger if ignored.

health and fitness Updated: Jul 12, 2015 18:44 IST
Monsoon Diseases,Monsoon Infections,Fungal Infections
Contact with contaminated water during the rains, combined with high temperatures and humidity levels, see the number of fungal and skin infections rise by up to 30% in the monsoon. (HT photo)

When it starts to rain, you know you want those pakoras with hot chai and you also know that it's time to watch out for monsoon diseases like malaria, dengue and leptospirosis. But there are other dangers lurking in the warm, humid climate and the stagnant pools of water - dangers like fungal infections, typhoid, even hepatitis.

Many of these start out with symptoms that are minor, and therefore go unnoticed or ignored, posing a threat of serious complications.

As in the case of Mumbai-based bank manager Meera Gupta, who is now being treated for a fungal infection called athlete's foot. The 25-year-old first experienced an itching sensation and redness on her feet two weeks ago."I ignored it, thinking it would go away," she says. "Four days ago, the patches on my feet swell and become painful. So I went to a doctor and was diagnosed with the infection."

Gupta's general practitioner, Dr Haresh Godia, suspects that she got the infection through contact with contaminated water.

"Through the rest of the year, it would most likely have gone away as she had expected," says Dr Godia. "But the warm and humid weather offers ideal conditions for fungal infections. Ignoring the symptoms worsens the condition."

To keep such infections at bay, Dr Godia advises that one wear loose clothes, plastic or rubber shoes that drain, and change into dry clothes as soon as possible if drenched in the rain.

"Ignoring such conditions can lead to permanently deformed nails and skin," says cosmetic dermatologist Dr Apratim Goel. "The good news is that such conditions, especially if caught early, can be treated easily by using anti-fungal powder or ointment."

Also do not ignore itchiness, redness or discharge from the eyes or ears. "If an infection festers, it can lead to serious problems like deafness or necessitate a surgery," says ear, nose and throat specialist BM Khandelwal.

As in Karishma Singh's case. The 26-year-old lactating mother of a five-month-old has been on painkillers for two weeks and is still in constant pain from an ear infection.

"I thought it would get better but the ear just kept swelling," she says.

Singh was admitted to a hospital six days ago.

"She is suffering from fungal growth in her middle ear, worsened by the high levels of moisture in the air," says Dr Khandelwal. "As in many cases, she came to me only when the growth of the fungus was in full spate. Analgesics in case of ear pain do no good and it is best to visit a specialist at the earliest."

Delhi-based airline staffer Neha Sharma, 31, similarly suffered from a painful broil, which developed on her right eyelid after she was recently soaked in the rain.

"After a week of pain, I noticed a boil," she says. Her doctor suspects that she got the infection after rubbing her eye with hands drenched in dirty rainwater.

"The monsoon makes the eyes susceptible to infection and allergies because of the humidity," says Dr Parul Sharma, head of the ophthalmology department at south Delhi's Max Healthcare. "On average, we see a jump of 20% to 30% in such cases during the monsoon."

Most eye infections spread through hand-to-eye contact. To break the transmission cycle one must wash one's hands often, and avoid touching the eyes, nose and mouth as far as possible, adds Dr Sharma.

Read: Delhiites wake up to a rainy Sunday; streets waterlogged

First Published: Jul 12, 2015 13:08 IST