How To Stay Healthy & Disease-Free During Monsoons?

By Consultant Physician Dr. K. Raghavan

Chennai is facing another monsoon of incessant rains and waterlogging everywhere. It is giving people a reminder of the cyclone Vardah from last year the floods form 2015.

The monsoon season, we need to accept, is a major inconvenience to many whose life was thrown out of gear, a source of huge financial loss to those whose livelihood and business have been severely affected, but above all a permanent catastrophe to a few who have lost their life and property. As the downpour settles down, new problems set in- waterborne and water-related diseases. Unless adequate precautions are taken at the individual as well as the organisational level, these illnesses could take their toll as well.

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Mosquito-borne diseases during monsoon: 

With a weak drainage system in place, one has to contend with stagnant water in several localities and the threat of serious illness looms large. Stagnant water is an ideal breeding place for mosquitoes. It is not surprising that there has been a resurgence of mosquito-borne diseases in the recent past.

Small cesspools around residential areas and sewage-contaminated lakes can be particularly dangerous. Malaria has been a major scourge in the Indian subcontinent Africa and other parts of Asia. Falciparum malaria, a form of the disease which affects the brain and the kidneys is known to have wiped out entire populations in Sub- Saharan Africa. Dengue fever, which causes intense muscle and bone pain and sometimes bleeding manifestation, filariasis and the deadly Japanese encephalitis are other major diseases transmitted by mosquitoes.

monsoon illness- padham

Pic courtesy: skymetweather

Watch out for waterlogged areas: 

Walking or wading through waterlogged areas during monsoon is the principal mode of spread of another deadly disease ‘ leptospirosis’. Leptospira are thread-like organisms which are ubiquitous in wildlife and in many domestic animals. The most frequent hosts are rodents especially the common rat. In these species, the organism persists indefinitely in the kidneys without causing diseases in them, but they are shed in their urine in massive numbers.

These leptospires can enter the human host through intact skin or mucous membrane but entry is facilitated by cuts and abrasions. Prolonged immersion in water also favours infection. After a brief bacteremia invading leptospores are distributed throughout the body in humans, the main organs affected being kidneys, liver, meninges and brain. This perhaps is one of the diseases that is a direct fall out of water stagnation during monsoon.

Rainwater harvesting is conceptually an excellent measure to save precious water in terms of scarcity, but if not done properly, dirty, contaminated water could find its way into our wells and tanks.

There has been a spate of complaints of late from several localities that the groundwater table has been badly contaminated, discoloured, malodorous and unfit for consumption. The draining rainwater carries a lot of silt and debris along with it and the wells are polluted. The hazards of consuming this water could well be imagined.

Unlike other water-borne diseases where the symptoms evolve over a period of time, cholera causes severe dehydration in a matter of hours and can be fatal if emergency resuscitative measures are not instituted. Jaundice due to Hepatitis A and E virus, Typhoid fever are often major illnesses that can be spread when there is a decline in the general level of hygiene and compromised personal protection during and after the rains.

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Preventive measures during monsoon: 

Every effort should be made to live and remain in a protected environment. Children should not be allowed to wade through stagnant water. Rubber boots or other protective footwear should be used while walking through stagnant water. Effective chlorination of wells, tanks and lakes is an extremely effective measure. Adequate anti fly measures should also be undertaken.

There is no substitute for filtering and boiling water used for drinking or cooking. Immunisation protocols stipulated by the health authorities should be strictly adhered to. Children and pregnant women should be cared for properly and scrupulous hygiene should be maintained when dealing with them.

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