Friday, March 18, 2011

All you need to know about avoiding & combating the FLU!

Most people in Mumbai are battling a combination of sore throat, incessant coughing, body or headaches, running nose and fever. A fact Dr Hemant Thakkar, Consultant Physician at Jaslok and Breach Candy Hospital substantiates and says, “The shift from winter to summer has been unusually long this year. This has made Mumbai a hotbed of upper respiratory diseases.” The city has been experiencing major temperature fluctuations almost on a daily basis. Cold evenings to clammy afternoons, the climate is ideal for the spread of contagious disease like a viral infection.

Triggered infection
Our body’s immune system is designed to identify and respond to any external infection. While the exposure to pollutants and carriers is much higher in cities, this season in particular sees these numbers peak. The measure of the small levels of pollutants in air, water or body fluids, also called parts per million (ppm), is high in the atmosphere. People living close to construction sites and industries, constantly breathe in dust, smoke, gasoline effluents and suspended particles. Mumbai, with its countless infrastructure and residential projects under construction, suspends a considerably inflated number of dust and dirt particles in the atmosphere in addition to its choking gasoline emission. Dr Uday Pol, an ENT surgeon based in Navi Mumbai, says, “There are allergens present around us such as dust mites in our homes, especially in our bed linen that are particular irritants to the respiratory system. Additionally, pollen, mold, dander (from pets) and weeds all add to our daily exposure to infection. We also consume allergens through the consumption of street food.”

The Consequences
If a respiratory problem is not treated at its nascent stage, a minor influenza infection like acute bronchitis might lead to chronic bronchitis and even laryngitis. A worst case scenario might even lead to pneumonia. There is also a risk of increase in the frequency of asthma attacks amongst the asthmatics. Among those in the high-risk category for flu infections are infants, children and senior citizens. If not treated in children they may get adenoid infection, mouth-breathing, and learning disorders resulting in a lack of concentration.

Long term changes also include a change in vocal cord nodules causing a permanent change in voice. Others who are immuno-compromised are asthma patients and diabetics, who are most prone to respiratory infections. They are at high risk and should take preventive vaccines as prescribed by their doctor.
► The most common sigh of a respiratory problem is the nasal blockage as well as a running nose. An inflammation or redness in the throat is possible. Patients, whose voice changes because of the soreness in the throat, also experience an inflammation in the voice box. Dry cough, especially at night, and dryness of the throat is frequent.
► Extreme itchiness in the throat leads to breathlessness.
► Redness or irritation in the eyes, relapsing fever and weakness are also common symptoms.

► Anti-allergic medicine and a Paracetamol in appropriate dose are necessary to get the infection under control.
► Some simple home remedies can be had to fight the infections such as steam inhalation.
► One should bear in mind that hydrating the body is very important. Drink warm water to hydrate the throat and body. Ideally, a little honey in water also helps soothe the dryness in the throat that warm water will induce.
► Drinking boiled water with fresh ginger, pepper corns, tulsi leaves and honey also helps to heal a sore throat.
► Consuming garlic as a whole or as tablets help combat the spread of the infection.

► Wear a mask in a dusty location.
► Asthma patients should increase their doses of bronchodilators.
► Avoid sudden temperature change like immediately entering an AC room from the outside heat.
► Don’t drink cold water because sudden changes increases the body temperature.
► A diet that does not include throat-irritants such as fried or cold food.

While most cities grapple with a change-of-season viral flu, Mumbai has a tough time controlling the spread given its high human density and proximity to infection. There are more people competing for the same amount of fresh air, hence increasing the likelihood to get infected.

So for this season, be careful, be healthy!


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