This monsoon, as you dig into your favourite samosa and tea, make sure you spare a thought for your health. For the monsoon will bring with it much more than magical drops from the heavens and refreshingly cooler climes. Stay alert to the onset of fever too – from germs, infections (both viral and bacterial) and diseases (both air & water borne) that will be populating the air.
A typical monsoon fever brings with it some recognizable and ‘universal’ symptoms such as chills, high temperature, headache, body-ache, rapid heartbeat, dizziness and others. Often, a seemingly harmless fever can be a decoy or disguise for implications that are far more serious. So if you, or someone you know, go under the weather this season and exhibit some of the symptoms of the infamous ‘monsoon fever’ (as explained in detailed below), it’s reason to be concerned. And approach a professional for advice and tests.
There are various types of fever that can afflict us during the season of the rains. Each will have its own set of symptoms and yet, there may be similarities and commonalities between them. Typically, a ‘monsoon fever’ brings with it a series of sickness syndromes as detailed out below:
When you catch a fever during the monsoons, avoid the temptation to play doctor and self-medicate (like instinctively reaching for an anti-biotic : This will anyway not work if the infection is caused by a virus, since anti-biotics – when prescribed correctly – only kill bacteria), because the risk of something going wrong is too high. So if you have exhibited any of the fever symptoms listed in this article, it is a good idea to approach a doctor or medical professional quickly.
Below are some of the common types of fever and maladies one can go down with, when the skies open up:
Infecting the upper respiratory system, the common cold – a type of viral infection – is one of the most common diseases during the monsoon season. With over 200 kinds of viruses causing it, it’s practically impossible for the body to develop immunity against each and every one of them – and so the ‘common cold’ remains a recurring and familiar medical condition in our lives. Some symptoms of the ‘common cold’ are coughing & wheezing, sore throat, blocked & running nose, a gruffy voice, mild fever with chills & shivering, aches in the muscles, pink colour in the eyes, pain in the ear, a feeling of exhaustion and drowsiness and a loss in appetite. In extreme cases, the condition can lead to Pneumonia and Acute Bronchitis as well. Common Cold is contagious, and can be transmitted via germs in the droplets released into the air during the act of sneezing or coughing. Some methods of prevention are avoiding contact with an infected individual, making sure to always cough or sneeze into a tissue or handkerchief, washing one’s hands and face frequently, keeping surfaces disinfected and the environment clean, and boosting the immunity by eating plenty of vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables.
A fever is defined as a condition when the body temperature rises beyond its normal levels, which is 36–37° Centigrade or 98–100° Fahrenheit. A viral fever is simply a fever that has been brought on by a virus (which are tiny, disease-carrying agents with the power to infect and multiply inside the cells of our bodies). Viral fevers can vary from the common cold to the Flu (Influenza). Some of the way we can ‘catch’ a virus are (A) breathing in the droplets containing the virus that are released into the air when someone infected coughs or sneezes nearby (B) consuming food that is contaminated by virus (C) Bites of animals and insects, and (D) exchange of bodily fluids with someone who is carrying a viral infection such as HIV or Hepatitis B. Some of the common symptoms of a Viral Fever are headache, chills & shivers, aches & pain in the muscle, sweating, a feeling of weakness or dehydration and loss of appetite. Bacterial and viral fevers can exhibit similar symptoms. Unlike bacterial infections, however, viral infections don’t respond to antibiotics. Common treatment methods for a viral fever are rest, over-the-counter ‘fever neutralizers’, staying hydrated by in-taking fluids and antiviral medication as prescribed by a professional or physician.
Spreading via the female anopheles mosquito, this is a fever that is transmitted via the blood. Apart from mosquitoes (which happens to be its most common cause), malaria also spreads when we use shared syringes, during an organ transplant and via blood transfusion. That apart, a pregnant woman who is infected can transmit the condition to her unborn child as well. Some of the common symptoms of malaria are fever, chills & shivers, pain in the muscles and a general weakness in the body. The best way to prevent Malaria is to make sure you are not bitten by a mosquito, and hence take all necessary anti-mosquito precautions.
Jaundice is one of the types of fevers whose incidence rises during the rainy season. During Jaundice, the bilirubin (a waste material) count in our bloodstream rises, causing the colour of the eyes and skin to turn yellow. The bilirubin count rises when red blood cells in our bloodstream break down or are destroyed (a condition called Hemolysis), severely straining the liver’s capability to remove the heightened levels of bilirubin from the blood. Some conditions that can cause the red blood cells to break down are Malaria, Thalassemia, Sickle Cell Crisis, G6PD, Autoimmune Disorders and certain kinds of drugs & toxins. Jaundice can also occur due to liver inflammation or an obstructed bile duct. Apart from pale and yellow coloured eyes and skin, some of the Jaundice fever symptoms can include dark urine, pale stool, an itching tendency, fatigue, vomiting, abdominal pain and fever. Jaundice is cured by treating its underlying causes, and its tests can be quite extensive.
Typhoid – rarer in developed countries as compared to underdeveloped and developing regions of the world where children are particularly vulnerable – spreads via food and water, or through a person who is already infected. Some of the Typhoid fever symptoms are high fever, muscle pain, fatigue, weakness, headache, rash, diarrhea (or constipation), a swollen abdomen, appetite loss, dry cough and sweating. There are a couple of vaccines available for Typhoid, but none of them are considered 100% effective. Some of the ways to protect one’s self from Typhoid are to stay away from contaminated food (such as street-side snacks and raw, cut fruits) and contaminated water, eating hot food as much as possible, improving the sanitation conditions in one’s immediate environment, always using a hand sanitizer and getting professional help immediately if you suspect that you have Typhoid.
Diarrhea is one of the most common fevers during the season of the rains. Brought on by virus, bacteria, parasites, IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), drugs, chronic infections and even harmonal imbalance, the main symptoms of Diarrhea are abnormally loose motion and watery stools. Other manifestations can include pain and cramps in the stomach and abdomen region, blood in the stool, vomiting, dehydration, bloating, thirst, fever and loss of weight. Nearly 2 billion cases of this disease are reported globally every year, and 1.9 million children (under 5 years of age) die from it annually. Rehydration, antibiotics (only for Diarrhea caused by Bacteria) and nutritional interventions (including probiotics) can be some of the treatments for this ailment.
Brought on by the Tiger mosquito, Denque is both a common and dangerous monsoon fever. It is dangerous due to his high mortality rate (nearly 50%), and the absence of any ‘cure’ – except for the preventive steps we can take to stay away from mosquito bites. Some of the symptoms of Denque are high fever, low platelet count, rash, headache, nausea, abdominal pain, nausea & vomiting, difficulty in breathing, clammy and cold skin, pain behind the eyes, a sense of fatigue, mild bleeding in the gums & nose, easy bruises and an irritable disposition.
The Chikungunya virus is brought on by the bite of a mosquito. While not fatal or contagious (normally), the symptoms – fever and joint pain – can be acute, and the suffering can be long lasting. Chikungunya and Dengue share similarities when it comes to symptoms, and in both cases, the symptoms become apparent a few days after the mosquito bite. Some of the prominent symptoms of Chikungunya are high fever, joint & muscle pain and join swelling. While Chikungunya is not considered fatal, the symptoms can be painful and long-running. While the patient will probably recover within a week, the pain in the joint can go on for months. The only way to confirm the incidence of Chikungunya is a blood test. Currently, medication of Chikungunya tends to focus on treating and alleviating the symptoms, rather than ‘curing’ the cause. Stay protected by ensuring you are not bitten by mosquitoes.
We have been discussing the common symptoms and causes of fever during the monsoon season. It is also important to understand what a fever actually is. A ‘fever’ refers to a condition where the body ‘naturally reacts’ to the attack of external agents such as bacteria or virus. When this happens, the body defends itself by raising its temperature beyond its normal level, which is 36–37° Centigrade or 98–100° Fahrenheit (this temperature refers to the one that’s measured orally, with the thermometer inside the mouth; When measured in the armpit, the temperature may be 0.2–0.3° C less). The body responds in this way because these ‘invaders’ (bacteria and virus) cannot survive in higher temperatures. With the rise in body temperature, the ‘patient’ may feel cold till the time the temperature subsides. During a fever, one shouldn’t wear tight clothes, since this can make the temperature rise. According to many professionals, a mild fever doesn’t need too much medical attention, since it is probably just the body battling infections in the normal course of its action.
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