A health solution and precautionary fitness measures are extremely important to keep our immune system replenished and remain alert to our bodily changes where or immune system needs to evolve and be more resilient to prevent attacks from viruses and infections, especially since the cold weather is approaching India. . It is no secret that keeping our immune system strong helps the body fight diseases on an ongoing basis but as we enter into the third year of the Covid-19 pandemic, our immune system requires support of many nutrients.
In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Paula Goel, Consultant Pediatrician, Adolescent Physician and Founder of Fayth Clinic, talked about the increase of water borne infections/diseases among kids and said that children and adolescents enjoy eating different varieties of food and they love to share food with each other. During the monsoons, this may pose a problem as water-borne infections or diseases are caused by drinking contaminated water, food or beverages or from contact with animals.
Contamination may also occur from environment or through person-to-person spread and water-borne infections may present in multiple ways with gastrointestinal, skin, ear, respiratory or eye problems are the commonest manifestations. According to Dr Paula, water borne infections could be bacterial, viral or parasitic infections.
She highlighted, “Commonest infections are diarrhea, cholera, food poisoning, gastroenteritis, giardiasis, typhoid, jaundice. Swimming can also cause skin infections and ear infections. Parasitic infection like ascariasis may also occur. Malaria and dengue are common due to water collected during the monsoons. Kids can get infection through fruits and vegetables, contaminated with unclean water which is used for washing. Raw sprouts are particularly dangerous, if they brought from the market because the conditions under which they are sprouted are ideal for growing microbes. Unpasteurized milk or fruit juices bought from road side vendors can be contaminated if there are pathogens on the fruit that is used to make it.”
She cautioned, “Any food item that is touched by a person who is ill with vomiting or diarrhea, or who has recently had jaundice or typhoid can become infected. Infections can be passed on to other people when these food items are not cooked (eg, salads, cut fruit). A large part of the water borne diseases are also caused by chemical pollution of the water bodies (nitrates & heavy metals).
Talking about their symptoms, Dr Paula revealed how these infections look like:
1. Most of the time, the child presents with fever, bloating and abdominal pain, excessive thirst, weakness.
2. Nausea and vomiting may also occur. With severe loose motions, dehydration may occur. The child becomes irritable, headache may have seizures.
3. Typhoid may present with abdominal pain, high grade fever and black stools. Malaria and dengue may present with high grade fever with chills.
4. Jaundice presents with fever, nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, deep yellow colored urine. High levels of jaundice may lead to convulsions.
5. Weight loss may occur.
Diagnosis depends on the signs and symptoms of the different diseases and close monitoring and follow up is necessary for treatment and to prevent complications. With all of the above being said, Dr Paula shared, “There has been an increase in typhoid, jaundice, gastroenteritis cases. With schools reopening post the pandemic, children and teenagers like to hang out with their friends. A lot of adolescents are fond of eating road side food, where hygiene issues are a cause for concern. Sharing of food, water, beverages, road side fruits and fruit juices create hygiene concerns as far as water borne diseases are concerned. Typhoid , gastroenteritis, food poisoning and jaundice are caused by contaminated food, water and also through individuals who have suffered from these diseases and have now become carriers of these pathogens. These individuals who are carriers would themselves not manifest the disease process but would pass on the pathogens to others through unhygienic handing of food, water and beverages. At certain areas, the water supply may get contaminated leading to outbreaks of gastroenteritis in that locality causing public health concerns.”
Dr Manan Vora, Sports Medicine Expert and Orthopedic Surgeon, insisted that the immune system is the body’s defense against any illness. He said, “Its purpose is to limit or prevent infection by acting as a barrier to keep pathogens from entering into the body. To protect the body against any harm, every component of the immune system needs to be working as per its due function.” To ensure this is always happening, he suggested the incorporation of certain behaviors and habits into our day-to-day routine. These include –
1. Regular exercise: The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of exercise/week. While the benefits of exercise are very well known, its role in maintaining good immunity is often overlooked. Additionally, exercise releases endorphins, which improve mental health and reduce stress, which in turn positively impacts immunity as well. Consider moderate intensity exercise 3-5 times a week. Also focus on 10,000 steps a day.
2. Adequate sleep: Our body needs an adequate amount of sleep for it to be able to perform all of its functions and a lack of it will impact its immunity too. Additionally, lack of sleep results in higher cortisol levels which in turn is not good for our immunity. Ensure you sleep for 7-8 hours every night.
3. Limit/avoid alcohol and stop smoking: Alcohol is known to reduce the ability of the body to fight infection and delay recovery time. The chemicals released by cigarette smoking reduce the function of immune cells in the body. Smoking is also known to severe infections should they arise. Limit the alcohol intake and avoid smoking completely.
4. Mental health in check: Stress can result in high levels of cortisol, and in turn reduce immunity. Keep your mental health in check, meditate, do journaling, or spend time pursuing a hobby or interest. Be self-aware and seek professional help if needed.
5. Eat nutritious food and stay hydrated: It is important to consume fruits, vegetables, milk, eggs, lean protein and limit saturated fats, sugar, salt and cholesterol. Staying hydrated throughout the day and ensuring one meets their daily water goals is equally crucial. Zinc, folate, iron, selenium, copper, and vitamins A, C, E, B6 and B12 are some of the nutrients the body needs to do its duties. In case one is not able to meet these nutrient demands with their diet, consider taking supplements.