The rains have come and they bring in lush greenery which is enjoyable. But they also bring dampness and coldness. This can cause health related problems.
The first such problem is of muscular pains. These occur as vague chest pain, body pain or pain in the limbs.
This occurs when one is not adequately covered with warm clothes. Everybody does wear a warm jacket when it is severely cold. But with moderate temperatures like here in Rwanda, people usually do not bother to do so. At night the temperature falls further thus exposing the body to cold. The muscles and blood vessels contract to conserve the heat of the body. This results in a person shivering, feeling cold and even having muscular pains.
Sneezing and a blocked nose can also occur or be aggravated by sudden cold climate. Similarly, cough whether dry or with expectoration usually comes when there are rains. Many of these cases of cold or cough are due to allergy to the dampness and spores and pollens prevalent in the atmosphere. These may be associated with other signs of upper respiratory tract infection like sore throat, enlarged tonsils, itching or pain in one or both ears or sense of blockade in one or both ears. Asthma is induced and aggravated by rain in those susceptible to it.
Congestion of the inner ear can occur due to coldness, causing inflammation of the part responsible for maintaining equilibrium of the body. The result is ear pain and giddiness.
Old people suffering from athritis and stiffness of the backbone, suffer worse when the weather becomes cold after rain. Their problem of pain and stiffness of joints is aggravated.
The skin is also affected. If one wears damp clothes, he/she is at a high risk of developing infections of the skin, notably superficial fungal infections. Initially one does not notice them, but when white or discoloured lesions start appearing on limbs, trunks or moist parts of the body along with intense intermittent itching, one feels alarmed. Eczema is also precipitated in susceptible persons due to dampness. This also occurs due to allergy to one or more substances prevailing in the atmosphere and presents with itchy small eruptions.
The bigger risk is of precipitation of angina pectoris or worse still myocardial infarction. Studies show that most heart attacks occur when the weather is cold due to rains or just a climatic change. This occurs due to contraction of the cardiac muscle and coronary arteries(those supplying blood to heart).
Due to contraction of blood vessels, one having hypertension tends to have higher blood pressure in cold weather.
The solution to all these problems is very simple, i.e. to avoid exposure to cold and dampness induced by rains.
After one or more showers, many persons feel pleasant but not cold. Hence they continue wearing, “summery clothes”. But if they develop any of the problems stated above, they should keep the body well covered by wearing thick, woolen clothes.
The clothes worn both inside and outside should be dry. They should be dried well in adequate sunlight or by hot iron.
Those who have a problem of ear pain or giddiness, should keep their ears well protected from draughts of cold air. This can be done by wearing scarves covering the ears or keeping the ears plugged with cotton.
Thus just with few precautions, one can enjoy the rains very well without falling sick.
Dr. Rachna Pande is a Specialist in internal medicine