Summer is a time for fun and travel, but it is also the time when infections flourish. The hot weather can increase the spread of certain infections as children get together during vacation.
By Dr V Ramasubramanian
Like Rhea, many children suffer from infections which are more prevalent in summers. Some of the most common summer-time infections are:
This is a viral infection spread through the airborne route.
Preventive measures: The infection can be prevented by two doses of the chicken-pox vaccination given four to eight weeks apart. Vaccination also helps prevent Shingles (Herpes Zoster).
Symptoms: Chicken-pox starts with fever associated with vesicles or bubbles over the body. The rash starts scabbing or drying in five to seven days. Till then, the patient can be infectious to others.
Treatment: Antivirals like Acyclovir are necessary for adults though children settle down without any treatment.
Neem is traditionally believed to help heal the illness. Scratching the rash may lead to secondary bacterial infections. Anti-histamines or Lacto Calamine may help if there is itching. A balanced diet is encouraged.
Complications: Pneumonia and Encephalitis (a type of brain fever) are complications sometimes seen among adults.
Bacteria and viruses causing diarrhoea and typhoid are common during the summer months when water can be scarce.
Preventive measures: Kids and adults should wash their hands after visiting the toilet and before eating. Repeated reheating of foods should be discouraged. Water should be ideally boiled and stored hygienically (may be cooled before drinking). Remember the adage, especially for travel ‘Cook it, boil it, peel it or forget it’.
Symptoms: Common symptoms start with vomiting, tummy pains and cramps, followed by loose stools with or without fever.
Treatment: Vaccination for typhoid fever is strongly advised for all in India. Plenty of fluids should be given to prevent dehydration. Avoid caffeinated drinks. A bland diet is encouraged (like curd rice, idlys, green gram daal rice without spices and oil, boiled vegetables, barley water, etc.). Anti-diarrhoeal like Loperamide reduce bowel frequency. Antibiotics are advised only if fever, profuse diarrhoea or blood in stools occurs.
Complications: Severe dehydration can lead to cramps, drowsiness and even kidney failure
When water intake is not adequate especially for women during summer months, urinary infections can occur. The infections are usually due to bacteria from the person’s gut and not from skin infections, social contact, usage of public toilets or certain foods as is commonly believed.
Preventive Measures: Urinary infections can be prevented by plenty of fluid intakes to ensure the passing of urine at least four-five times a day. Good personal hygiene and appropriate underclothing also help.
Symptoms: Include burning sensation when passing urine, along with increased frequency; sometimes blood in the urine indicates cystitis. Fever with chills and vomiting can also occur. Loin pain and severe shivering with high fever may denote involvement of the kidney.
Treatment: Symptoms of irritation can be alleviated by cranberry juice or other urine alkalising agents (like Citralka). A urine routine examination and a culture test can diagnose and confirm the problem. Antibiotics based on the growth clear the infection. Recurrent infections can be due to stones or obstruction to the flow of urine.
Hot summer months with sweating can cause skin irritation and infections. While excessive sweating causes physical irritation, this gets compounded by infective agents like bacteria or fungi.
Preventive Measures: Good personal hygiene is paramount. Cotton clothing and frequent bathing during the hot summer days can help skin diseases.
Symptoms: Rashes can occur especially in the folds of skin like groin or waist with itching (ringworm). This may indicate a fungal infection. Prickly heat is commonly seen over the back and neck and presents itself as a fine red rash. Bacterial infections may also occur as a painful pimple- like lesions which may spread on scratching.
Treatment: Prickly heat responds to bathing, keeping the skin dry and using a soothing talc. Fungal infections like ringworm require anti-fungal creams or powders. If bacterial infections are severe, antibiotics are advised by the doctor.
Diet: Avoid spicy and hot food. Plenty of fluids and fruits in your diet keep the skin healthy in summers.
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Dr V Ramasubramanian