The rains during the monsoons surely bring relief from the scorching heat, but it also brings along many illness like cold and cough and severe respiratory infections. Viral and bacterial infections especially of the respiratory tract and ailments because of the sudden drop in temperature could start off as a simple tonsillitis, cold and dry cough but they might even gradually spread to the rest of the body.
Elaborating more on the symptoms, Dr M. Narender, consultant chest physician and associate professor, Department of Pulmonary Medicine, Osmania Medical College, answers our questions regarding these illnesses, and especially cautions patients with pre-existing respiratory disease such as asthma, who are prone to worsening of symptoms during the monsoons.
What are the symptoms of respiratory disorders during monsoon?
Flu or common cold and pneumonia are common in monsoon. Caused by bacteria or viruses, these illnesses may have symptoms either developing gradually over a few days or progressing fast. The main symptom of a respiratory illness is coughing. One will probably have at least one of these symptoms too — coughing up mucus, a high temperature, sweating and shivers, difficulty in breathing or getting out of breath faster than normal, chest pain or discomfort and loss of appetite. The symptoms are often very similar to those of other chest infections, such as bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma flare-ups or bronchiectasis flare-ups. To get a proper diagnosis one should visit a doctor.
What are the treatments?
Pneumonia can be serious, so it’s important to get treatment quickly. The main treatment for pneumonia is antibiotics, along with rest and drinking plenty of water. If you have chest pain, you can take pain killers such as paracetamol.
What are the major causes for the disease?
Getting wet during rain triggers an allergy, which leads to the usual irritation and cold, which if ignored can trickle down to the lungs and cause sputum, leading to cough. Bacteria and viruses thrive in such condition, worsening the situation. Further, chest colds can trigger a wheezing attack in susceptive individuals, which can lead to asthma. Infection is one of the primary causes of asthma, particularly in children. Yellow coloured sputum is suggestive of severe infection and needs immediate attention.
Tips to reduce the risk of catching and spreading infections:
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, and encourage other people around you to do likewise.
- Cough into your elbow or the crook of your arm to reduce the spread of germs.
- Throw away used tissues as soon as you can.
- Wash your hands regularly or use a hand sanitiser gel if you’re outside.
- Avoid situations in which you might catch a cold or the flu.
- If you can, avoid contact with people who have symptoms of cold.
The mandatory checklist before stepping out into this weather:
- Check the weather before you go out. If it’s too cold or breezy for you or if you are not feeling too well or are having trouble breathing, stay indoors and keep warm.
- If you have a reliever inhaler, try using it half an hour before going outside. Carry your reliever medication with you as cold air can tighten your airways,making it harder for you to breathe.
- Try to breathe through your nose instead of your mouth as this will help warm the air you breathe in.
- Protect your lungs and airways by wearing a hood or scarf that covers your mouth. It’s better to use a smooth material that isn’t scratchy.
Precautions and measures to stay safe:
- Keep your home warm.
- Try to get rid of dampness in your home. Wear warm clothes. Keep your bedroom window closed at night. Breathing in cold air can increase the risk of respiratory infections. Have lots of hot drinks and at least one hot meal a day if you can. Eating regularly helps keep your energy levels up.
- Stay active.
- This season brings an increase in the risk of complications like chest infections, heart attacks and stroke. So try to stay as active as you can to generate body heat. Get up, move around and try to do some exercise. You’ll feel better. When you’re indoors, try not to sit still for more than an hour or so. Chair exercises are a good way to keep warm and active. Look after your airways and lungs.
Tips for the elderly:
Given that the immunity of the elderly may not be very good at their age, Dr Narender cautions them to stay away from infections and possible sources of the infection. “Cold and flu spread very easily. It’s very easy for children and grandchildren to pass their infections on. So, if your grandchildren have cold, it’s best to wave at them through the window. Get a one-off anti-pneumonia vaccination too. If you’ve not already had one; ask for a pneumonia jab. The jab is recommended if you have a long-term lung condition such as COPD, Asthma, bronchiectasis or pulmonary fibrosis,” advices the doctor.