By , Pratibha Masand
Doctors Warn Against Taking Symptoms Like Runny Nose And Sneezing Too Lightly
With the mercury and humidity rising, doctors have witnessed a worrying surge over the last fortnight in the number of patients suffering from cough and cold. The symptoms, they say, are innocuous enough: runny or blocked nose, fits of sneezing or congested chest. But while many mistake the symptoms for aggravated allergies, which they may be, doctors warn that they can also be signs of a viral infection that needs to be treated accordingly.
Manisha Goyal, a 39–yearold media executive, has been suffering from a blocked nose, paining ears and a pounding headache for two days. “It’s my sinus acting up again,” said Goyal. “It is triggered because of allergies. In such times, only the strongest of medication helps.”
Dr Khusrav Bajan, an intensivist at Hinduja Hospital, warned that a bout of sneezing that starts because of allergies to pollen grain or dust can turn into an upper respiratory tract infection.
“The number of cold, cough and flu infection cases has been increasing in the last fortnight. We get these patients when the allergy has turned into an upper respiratory tract infection,” Bajan said. Due to the delay, many of these patients end up getting pneumonia as well. “About 3% of all cases are so severe that people have to be admitted to hospital,” Bajan added.
According to a study in 2008, more than 64% of all allergies are caused by dust mites, 53% by insects, 39% by dust, and the rest by fabrics, fungi, food and pollen grains.
The reason allergens and viruses are more active during this time of the year is that it is a transition period between two seasons. “The monsoon stopped abruptly. Now, with the temperature going up, viruses have good conditions to grow and the dry winds help in transporting allergens actively,” said Bajan. Dr Rohini Chowghule, head of department of chest medicine at Bombay Hospital, warns that what sometimes feels like an allergy to the vulnerable is many times a viral infection. “Patients think their sneezes are an allergic reaction. But, at present, it is a viral attack that has been causing upper respiratory tract infections,” she said, adding that the incubation period of viral infections is also longer these days. “Generally, these infections are self–limiting, but in the current bout, patients suffer longer,” Chowghule said.
“Studies show that 29% of the Indian population suffers from allergies. The changing weather aggravates them,” said Dr Wiqar Shaikh, chief of medical unit at JJ Hospital. House dust mites, pets and plants are also responsible for triggering allergies. “Pollination takes place for 10 months in a year in Mumbai, which causes allergies in a large number of people.”
Health & Hygiene
Some of the causes for allergies
Dust mites Insects Dust Fabrics Fungi Foods Pollen grains
Precautions that can be taken
Stay indoors early morning when there is more pollen in the air Keep your doors and windows shut if there is construction work happening nearby Close windows and use air conditioners to prevent outside dust from entering your home Avoid carpets, rugs and window blinds since they are can pack in a lot of dust Wear a mask and gloves while cleaning