The COVID pandemic has us worried about every cough and fever we get, and even if it turns out to be a case of the common cold, a weakened immune system is not going to do us any favours. That’s why we may feel the need to buckle down now more than ever. So we’ve put together a simple guide to staying healthy this monsoon season with the help of Dr. Dhanya Ramadas, so that your body has a fighting chance against any illness.
Staying Healthy During Monsoons
The monsoon marks a sharp change in weather from the sweltering heat of the summer — and this shift from sunny blue skies to cloudy grey ones does often have an effect on our health as we move towards the colder months. This is often the prime season for influenza, dengue, fungal infection, and many more illnesses. So how do we keep them away?
Keep an eye on your environment
Monsoons are the very definition of “water, water everywhere”, with flowing water carrying all manner of viruses and bacteria from and stagnant water making the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes. Do your best to prevent water stagnation in your area, as this could be a breeding ground for the dengue and malaria spreading mosquitoes.
Stock Up on Vitamin C
Vitamin C is a natural way to boost your immune system. It can be found in seasonal fruits and vegetables such as oranges, jamun, papaya, okra, bitter gourd, or tomatoes. If for some reason you’re unable to eat these fruits (citrus, for example, causes acidity for many people and groceries may be hard to come by these days), look into Vitamin C supplements. Just talk to your doctor or nutritionist first to find out how much you should take, and how often.
Soak up the sun
More often than not, the sun tends to hide behind the clouds during the Monsoons, which means we’re getting a lot less vitamin D than we do in the summer months. Add to that the fact that many of us are homebound these days, we get even less exposure than usual. Vitamin D is good for both your immune system and mental health, so try and get at least 15 to 20 minutes of direct sunlight between 10am to 3pm every day. In some cases, this may not be enough, so it’s a good idea to get your Vitamin D levels tested and take supplements if required.
Stay Warm, Stay Dry
Monsoons mean moisture, and moisture often leads to fungal infections. These can be prevented with hot & hygienic showers and thorough drying. Making sure your clothes are completely dry when you take them off the line can make a difference as well. Dandruff and itchy scalp is also common, and can be avoided by frequently shampooing and drying your head well. There is an old wives tale that having a wet head in the cooler months or getting wet in the rain will cause you to catch a cold, but this isn’t quite true. A wet body is a cold body, and by reducing your core body temperature, you make your body more susceptible to illness. Dressing appropriately for the weather, keeping your head and chest warm, can go a long way in preventing a seasonal cold and more.
Keep you General Well Being in Mind
For many of us, the changes in the past six months have wreaked havoc on our schedules — and our immune systems. Added stress, odd sleeping habits, and interrupted fitness schedules have all taken their toll. Remember to take breaks, sleep enough and on time, eat healthy, and exercise. These simple lifestyle changes can add to your immunity.
COVID, Cold, or Flu — what can we do?
Say you’re feeling under the weather, how can you tell if it’s just a seasonal cold or something more serious? We have a quick symptom checker here for you:
A cold is usually characterised by a mild fever (if any), a runny nose, a sore throat and/or cough, and sometimes slight body ache.
The flu or influenza will give you a much higher, abrupt fever, usually crossing 100 degrees F. It is often accompanied by fatigue, moderate to severe body ache, a dry cough, and sometimes loose stools.
COVID too is characterised by a high fever and dry cough like the flu, but the onset is more gradual and it is accompanied by shortness of breath and difficulty breathing. Patients often note a loss of smell as one of the initial symptoms.
When you feel sick, your first instinct may be to go to the pharmacy and get an antibiotic. However, flu that comes with a change in the weather is mostly viral, so an antibiotic might not be necessary. This might do you more harm as antibiotics attack the microbiomes in your body. Therefore, do not take any unprescribed medications and get a tele/online consultation from a doctor first if your symptoms are getting worse.
Here are some other things that you should keep in mind:
- If the symptoms match with a cold, you can treat it at home with bed rest, lots of fluids, and some medication. Try Kadha or Kashayam (a decoction made from boiling herbs and spices) or paracetamol for symptomatic relief and fever- try consulting with a doctor over the phone or online in case you are worried about your symptoms
- If your fever is high, go to a doctor. It may be the flu, but it is best to get it checked before the symptoms progress too far- make sure that you wear a mask and are precautious
- Avoid exercise during this period, even if you feel like you can power through your work out. Your body needs all the fluids and rest it can get to fight the illness
Staying at home this monsoon season might cut down on some of our usual worries — many of us won’t have to worry about commuting in the rain, for example — but it also brings to light several new anxieties. Staying safe and healthy is at the top of all of our minds these days, so let’s double down this monsoon season, and give our bodies a fighting chance.