Monsoons usher in a welcome change from the scorching summer heat. But, along with the freshness, greenery and much needed breeze, the monsoons also bring with it disease and illness. However, there’s really no reason why you can’t make the most of the weather, even if you have young children around the house.
Dr Bhaskar Shenoy, consultant and chief, division of paediatric infectious diseases, Manipal Hospital, Bengaluru, says, “Due to wet and humid climate, various infections are common during the monsoons. The dampness, muck and stagnant pools of water are ideal breeding grounds for disease-causing microorganisms. While everyone is prone to diseases during the monsoons, children are most likely to fall sick due to their immature immune system. It is imperative for parents to take the necessary precautionary measures to ensure that children practice good hygiene and minimise their chances of falling ill.”
Some common ailments of the season
Catching a cold, having a sore throat and contracting water-borne diseases are quite frequent. “Dangerous waterborne diseases that children are susceptible to are gastroenteritis (diarrhoea), cholera, jaundice (hepatitis A and E), typhoid and dysentery. Disease-producing viruses, bacteria, protozoa and parasitic worms found in the faeces of infected persons could contaminate water and can cause mild to serious infections in children,” says Dr Bhaskar.
If you have a viral fever
A viral fever is prevalent during the monsoons. It is a contagious disease and often spreads from one child to another, especially in schools or daycare centres. This is because these viruses are transmitted through air and touch. Young children are more prone to viral fevers as their immune system is not strong. In an attempt to get rid of the foreign particles, the temperature of body is increased.
Dr Bhaskar says, “Constant sneezing, soar throat and fever are the common symptoms of this disease. Sometimes H1N1 or swine flu can occur as an epidemic if the above symptoms are manifested severely.” However, to identify between a viral fever and a regular fever, pay attention when the fever is recurrent and doesn’t go away with medicine, a child is shivering, is experiencing fatigue, and has a runny nose and chest congestion.
Dr Bhaskar explains, “The easiest way to avoid fever is by not getting wet in the rain. Simple medications like paracetamols are sufficient. Frequent gargles with warm water can relieve a soar throat. An effective vaccine is available for swine flu and the seasonal flu.”
Most doctors will recommend managing the symptoms rather than concentrating on the temperature. Use a wet sponge to bring down the fever. Provide plenty of warm fluids, like soup, that will help soothe the soar throat and cough. Also provide oral rehydration solutions (ORS) to combat dehydration. Rub some petroleum jelly on your baby’s nose to avoid dry skin caused by frequently rubbing the nose. If you are breastfeeding, do not stop as it provides the essential nutrients and will help your child fight the infections. Lastly, let your baby rest.
If you catch malaria
This particular disease is a mosquito-borne disease. The number of cases shoot up during and just after the monsoons. This is because humidity and stagnant water provide the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes. Your child is unlikely to get malaria in the first three months of her life. This is because of the immunity provided by you during your pregnancy. But as she grows older, she will lose the antibodies you provided her with and her risk of catching malaria will increase.
The signs usually start showing in about eight days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Dr Bhaskar advises, “Symptoms to look out for are severe fever with chills usually occurring within 72 hours of the bite, body ache and sweating.” Your child may also have loss of appetite and diarrhoea, often seen as green stool. Some children may also have low temperature (hypothermia) instead of a fever.
Dr Bhaskar advises, “Mosquito repellents and nets should be used to protect your child from being bitten by mosquitoes. Make sure that there is no stagnant water in and around your area.”
He further adds that there is an ABCD prevention of malaria:
■ Awareness of risk of malaria
■ Bite prevention
■ Chemoprophylaxis— antimalarial medication
■ Diagnosis and treatment
Only a blood test can confirm malaria parasites present in the system. Getting to the doctor quickly is the best way to keep you child safe. In addition, your doctor will give your child antimalarial drugs. Moreover, depending on the type of malaria and its severity, your doctor may prescribe a single drug or a combination of medicines.
If you think you have typhoid
Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread through food or drink contaminated by the feces of an infected person. Dr Bhaskar explains, “It is caused by a bacteria called S Typhi which is transmitted through consuming contaminated water and food. Sometimes, the infection of the disease can remain in the gall bladder of the patient, even after she is cured.”
The symptoms usually develop within one to two weeks. They include a high fever lasting for more than three days, abdominal pain, headache and a general feeling of discomfort and uneasiness. The symptoms can be mild or severe and last for four weeks or longer.
Your child will receive the vaccination when she is between nine to 12 months old. The booster doses are given at two years of age and again between four and six years, respectively. Dr Bhaskar says, “This is a highly communicable disease so the patient is expected to be isolated from the rest of the family. The patient should have a high intake of fluids to prevent dehydration. Precautions should be taken even after the recovery.”
The test for diagnosing typhoid is the blood culture. There is another test called the typhoid which is quicker to perform. Your doctor will advise you on the right test to take for your child. Make sure your child completes the full course of antibiotics. Typhoid is most common in children aged between two to five years of age. In babies, the symptoms can be easily confused with other feverish illnesses. Breastfed babies are unlikely to be in contact with this disease as they build immunity from their mother’s milk. Also, they haven’t been introduced to solid foods.
Making wise decisions
Dr Bhaskar advises, “Vaccines boosts the immune system and protects your child from diseases that are rampant in this weather. Hib, Pneumococcal, Flu, Hepatitis A and typhoid vaccines can be gifts to your child for enhancing her armamentarium against disease-causing bugs.” Find below the list of age-wise vaccinations required for your child:
Age (zero to one)
● BCG, OPV, Hepatitis B (at birth)
● DPT, OPV, HIB, Hepatitis B, Rota Virus and Pneumococcal (six to 14 weeks)
● Flu vaccination to be given at six months. Also vaccination to be repeated every year.
● MMR, Typhoid, Hepatitis A, Chicken pox (nine to 15 months)
Age (one to three)
● Chicken pox, MMR, Hepatitis A, DBT, HIB, Polio boaster and Pneumococcal boaster
Age (three to six)
● DBT boaster
● OPV boaster
● Typhoid boaster
● MMR Chicken pox boaster|MB