With the first showers of rain around June, people in most parts of India usually breathe a sigh of relief. It brings the much-needed respite from the rising mercury in summer, some pleasant weather, and lush greenery which is a balm to the eyes and the soul.
However, health issues do not stay far behind, and the season brings numerous kinds of monsoon illnesses, ranging from mild cold and coughs to severe microbial infections.
Let’s have a look at common monsoon ailments, and what can be done to prevent these.
Microbial infections (infections caused by harmful microorganisms like bacteria and viruses) increase in incidence during monsoons due to the damp and humid weather, which is a perfect environment for bacterial and viral growth.
1. Common Cold and Flu: It is a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract, caused due to the sudden fluctuations in temperatures, aided by a weakened immune system in the monsoon.
Several viruses are responsible for common cold infections including rhinoviruses and influenza viruses (causing an infection also called influenza or flu).
Symptoms of the common cold include low-grade fever, runny nose, nasal blockage, coughing, sneezing, sore throat, generalized body aches, and poor appetite. The symptoms of influenza are similar to that of the common cold, although more severe.
2. Typhoid: It is an infection caused by some bacterial species of the Salmonella genus.
It spreads from eating or drinking food or water contaminated with the faeces (stool) of an infected person. Thus, poor sanitation and hygiene are major risk factors for typhoid. Common symptoms include fever, headache, diarrhoea, constipation, and abdominal pain.
3. Hepatitis A: It is a highly contagious liver infection caused by Hepatovirus A.
The virus causes inflammation of the liver tissue and spreads through food and water contaminated with the faeces of an infected person.
Symptoms include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, diarrhoea, nausea, and jaundice (yellow discolouration of skin, whites of eyes and mucous membranes).
Adults show symptoms compatible with hepatitis (inflammation of the liver) and the majority of children have either asymptomatic or unrecognized infections.
4. Diarrhoea: In diarrhoea, intestinal infection by a microorganism (virus, bacteria, or parasite) causes loose and watery bowel movements.
- The infection is spread by food or water contaminated with the faeces of an infected person. Watery stools, abdominal cramps, fever, dehydration, and irritability may occur.
- In severe cases, patients may experience decreased urination due to dehydration, loss of skin colour, fast heart rate, and a decrease in responsiveness.
5. Leptospirosis: It is a blood infection caused by the bacteria Leptospira.
The bacteria spread to humans through animal urine, or animal urine-contaminated water and soil, which may come in contact with a person’s eyes, mouth, nose, or breaks in the skin.
During monsoon, people with skin injuries may catch the infection from walking through water-logged areas.
Symptoms include high fever, chills, severe headaches, and muscle pain. Nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and abdominal pain may also occur.
Severe cases can lead to jaundice, kidney failure, and bleeding.
How to Prevent Microbial Infections During Monsoon?
Wash your hands before and after using the toilet, and before preparing and eating food.
Eat homemade food, and avoid eating food from outside, which may be contaminated.
Cover all food items to keep the house flies away, as they could be carriers of bacteria.
Purify or boil water before drinking to prevent infection through contaminated water.
Practice respiratory hygiene, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue while coughing or sneezing, and dispose of the used tissue responsibly.
Cover any open bruises or cuts.
Boost your immunity by eating a balanced diet, including fresh fruits and vegetables.
When there is a vaccine available for a disease, get yourself vaccinated.
A disease that is spread from mosquitoes to humans is known as a mosquito-borne disease. When a mosquito feeds on a person’s blood, it swallows any viruses or parasites living in the blood and transfers them to the next person it bites.
This transmission occurs through the saliva of the mosquito. Monsoons are the breeding season for mosquitoes and thus, a high incidence of these diseases are seen.
1. Malaria: It is caused by Plasmodium parasites that are spread by female Anopheles mosquitoes.
It is characterised by fever with chills, tiredness, vomiting, head and body ache, and sweating.
If untreated, severe malaria can lead to jaundice, liver, and kidney failure.
2. Dengue Fever: It is caused by the bite of female Aedes mosquitoes which carry the Dengue virus in their saliva.
The infection causes fever, severe joint pains, headache, vomiting, and a typical skin rash.
The disease subsides in 7 to 10 days in most people.
However, it may develop into a more severe disease called dengue haemorrhagic fever characterised by pain in the abdomen, vomiting and bleeding due to low platelet counts or into dengue shock syndrome, where the blood pressure of the infected person becomes very low, leading to shock.
3. Chikungunya Fever: It is a viral infection transmitted by the bite of the Aedes albopictus and Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which mainly bite during the day.
The causative virus is known as the Chikungunya virus.
Common symptoms include severe and persistent joint pain, fever, headache, muscle pain, joint swelling, and a rash.
The symptoms usually reduce within a week. However, in rare cases, the joint pain may last for months or years.
How to Prevent Mosquito-Borne Infections During Monsoon?
Stagnant water acts as a breeding ground for mosquitoes and parasites. Keep your house and locality clean, and cover areas and containers filled with water.
Spray insecticidal agents in areas with stagnating water.
Use mosquito-repellent screens, nets, and meshes for your windows.
Apply mosquito repellent on your body.
Wear full-coverage clothing to prevent the mosquitoes from biting.
Enjoy the monsoons! Maintain hygienic practices, follow a healthy diet, and take precautionary measures.
However, if you or a family member develop any worrying symptoms, seek immediate medical attention.
1. Medanta.org. 2021. Monsoon Illnesses in India – All You Need To Know. [online] Available at: <https://www.medanta.org/patient-education-blog/monsoon-illnesses-in-india-all-you-need-to-know/#:~:text=Malaria%2C%20caused%20by%20a%20single,to%20this%20malaria%2Dcausing%20parasite.> [Accessed 31 May 2021].
2. Africa Health Organisation. 2021. Five illnesses that affect children during the rain season | Africa Health Organisation. [online] Available at: <https://aho.org/articles/five-illnesses-that-affect-children-during-the-rain-season/> [Accessed 31 May 2021].
Disclaimer: This article is written by Practo for informational and educational purposes only. The content presented on this page should not be considered as a substitute for medical expertise. Please "DO NOT SELF-MEDICATE" and seek professional help regarding any health conditions or concerns. Practo will not be responsible for any act or omission arising from the interpretation of the content present on this page.