Summer is at its peak in the UAE, bringing with it waves of intolerable heat and high levels of humidity. The changing weather also causes sandstorms, which envelop the city with dust and sand. While these conditions can impact the body on many levels, the most prominent and common problems that are triggered off include colds, flu and other allergic conditions such as asthma. Infections such as sinusitis are also exacerbated as a result of these weather conditions. Dr. Bodi Saicharan, Specialist – Respiratory Medicine, Burjeel Hospital Abu Dhabi, has some simple recommendations to help keep you and your family protected during summer.
A cool refreshing swim is a perfect antidote for a hot summer day in the UAE. However, swimming pools are hotbeds for germs that cause colds and flu. These bugs thrive in hot, humid and wet conditions and pose a risk not just to children but also adults. Often water gets trapped in the ears after swimming, and if not drained, can be the perfect environment for germs. Once the infection sets in, children and adults could experience ear pain and other symptoms. Cold and throat infections are also very common in children and adults who swim regularly, as is conjunctivitis. The lower the immunity, the higher the susceptibility, which is why children are more prone to catching these infections.
The best way to avoid such infections is to use a clean swimming pool that is maintained regularly. It is also important that children use ear plugs while swimming. Don’t allow your child to go swimming if he/she has a cold or cough. Also, increase your child’s vitamin C intake particularly during the season to protect them from such infections. A course of antibiotics could also be prescribed to prevent the spread of the infection, based on the doctor’s advice.
Summer colds and flu
In summer, colds are usually caused by the Rhino viruses and Enteroviruses. Enterovirus infection can have more severe, flu-like symptoms, in addition to sneezing and coughing. Summer colds can be spread by people sneezing and coughing and through direct contact with germ-ridden surfaces. Enteroviruses are also linked to symptoms such as diarrhea, sore throat, rashes and body aches.
The virus thrives in hot, humid and crowded places such as schools, buses, airports and on airline flights. The infection may also spread more quickly in air-conditioned offices, especially if the air conditioning system is not cleaned regularly.
When you go from the summer heat outdoors to an air-conditioned space indoors several times a day, it causes your body to react defensively. So when we go into a cold environment after being outdoors, the
brain reacts by causing blood vessels to constrict in order to keep us warm. The body also shivers, which then generates heat. The blood vessels located in the nose and throat also constrict, which can impair the local immunity, making the body susceptible to cold-causing viruses. If left untreated, the infection can lead to sinusitis, which is an inflammation of the sinuses.
Flu is another common condition seen due to compromised immunity and poor air circulation in air-conditioned spaces. The infection causes a runny nose, aches and pains, and fatigue. The infection, can take four or five days to run its course.
However, the best way to deal with colds is to keep well hydrated so that nasal passages and the throat are moist. Use an antibacterial lotion after touching surfaces such as toilet handles or doorknobs, or wash your hands often, and step outdoors to get some fresh air especially if you have a sedentary job. Ensure that you get enough vitamins, especially E and C, to build your immunity. Avoid going to crowded places, to avoid getting infected, or spreading the infection, if you are sick.
Constant changes in air quality (humidity) and increased pollen, mold spores and dust mites in the air – commonly seen in summer – can trigger an asthma attack. They can irritate the airways and lungs causing inflammation and symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and chest tightness.
Installing a dehumidifier at home or workplace is a good start. People prone to asthma should avoid being outdoors too much, and should keep windows at home closed to stop pollen and dust from coming in. Air-conditioning systems should also be well maintained to ensure a steady supply of clean air, which will also keep mold spores at bay. Air purifiers are also helpful in improving the indoor air quality.
Both children and adults suffering from asthma should use their inhalers before going outdoors, especially if they are exercising or doing some other physical activity. Use a dose as advised by a doctor, and take your medication regularly. Also, keep your medication handy in case of the onset of an unexpected attack. These simple suggestions can help you avoid infections, prevent asthma attacks and get through summer on a healthy note.
Photo credit: Cajie / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA