While rain brings respite after long periods of hot and humid days, the fact cannot be denied that rainy season brings with it a host of infections and diseases. The damp air is conducive for the microorganisms to thrive and spread rapidly. Usually, young children, senior citizens and people with a weak immune system are easily prone to infections during this season. We need to stay informed about common illnesses during this season. One needs to know when to get alarmed and seek professional medical advice and protect oneself from such infections.
The most common diseases during the monsoon season can be grouped into the following three categories:
Airborne diseases like Common Cold and Flu
Water-borne diseases like Cholera, Typhoid and Jaundice
Mosquito-borne diseases like Dengue and Malaria
Being in the ENT field, we get to see quite a number of patients presenting with a “cold”. So, what is this cold? People commonly associate the term “cold” with any of the respiratory symptoms like nose block, runny nose, phlegm in the throat, cough, etc. These symptoms are common to certain illnesses like common cold, flu, respiratory allergies and also COVID infection. These upper respiratory tract diseases have similar symptoms with subtle differences. Except for seasonal allergies, these diseases are caused by viruses that attack the respiratory tract and are contagious.
The common cold, true to its name, is the most common viral infection. If one person in a family gets infected, most other members of the household get infected too. There are many viruses causing this condition, the most common being Rhino virus. It takes around 2 to 3 days for symptom onset from the time of exposure to the germ. Symptoms are usually mild. The affected person can have a runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, tickly throat and mild fever. Usually the person feels quite well, has a good appetite and normal energy levels. There are no specific tests to diagnose this condition and similarly no specific treatment as well.
Flu is a common term used to denote an infection caused by Influenza A and B viruses. Symptoms are similar to common cold but a little more severe. Usually it takes about 1 to 4 days from the day of exposure to symptom onset. Patient can have fever with chills, headache and body pain along with cold symptoms. Antiviral medications can shorten the duration of illness. Very sick people might require hospitalization. There are flu vaccines available to protect oneself from a severe infection.
As you all are aware, this infection can range from an asymptomatic career state to life-threatening illness. It is caused by SARS-CoV-2 virus. Usually, it takes 2 to 14 days from the day of exposure to become symptomatic. Symptoms can be mild to severe. The most common symptoms are fever, dry cough, tiredness and loss of taste and smell (peculiar to this infection and usually preserved in common cold and flu). Less common symptoms are sore throat, headache, diarrhoea and skin rash. Serious symptoms can be shortness of breath and chest pain. Children can present with signs of multi-system inflammatory syndrome. It is advisable to undergo RT-PCR testing even for people with mild symptoms, so that they can get quarantined and prevent the spread of infection to their near ones and contacts. Serious COVID illness can be prevented by taking vaccines.
As the name suggests, this variety of respiratory illnesses occurs most commonly during the months of pollen release. It affects people who have a tendency for allergies. Symptoms are similar to the common cold. It can be treated with anti-allergic medications and can be prevented by avoiding exposure to the allergen.
There are some general measures that one can take to speed up recovery in patients with upper respiratory illnesses and these measures also help in preventing the infections. They are:
Keeping oneself warm and dry is very important, especially the vulnerable children and the elderly.
Adequate sleep and rest are important to boost immunity. This helps the person fight the illness and also recover easily.
Adequate hydration and good nourishment are to be ensured. Drinking warm soups might make the affected person feel better.
Avoid direct or close contact with people already infected with cold and cough. An infected person should follow a proper cough and hand hygiene.
Maintain good hygiene, ensure regular washing of hands and feet and also of used linen. One has to wash and dry oneself thoroughly in case of contact with flood water.
Drinking warm water, salt water gargling and steam inhalation can help one feel better symptomatically.
I wish everyone stays safe and enjoys the monsoon and the festive season with melodies rather than maladies.
Dr. Preethi. P
Consultant - ENT, Head and Neck Surgery
Kauvery Hospital, Chennai