The current spell of northeast monsoon has brought in its wake viral infections in both adults and children. Apart from the usual complaints of conjunctivitis, fever, respiratory tract ailments and cough and cold, doctors say there is an increase in the number of children reporting with gastroenteritis.
According to paediatricians in the city there has been an increase in the incidence of viral infections in the last few days as compared to a fortnight ago. But, infections such as leptospirosis, dengue and malaria, caused by stagnation of water, are expected to increase after the rain, said P. Ramachandran, Director, Institute of Child Health, Egmore.
The Government Children's Hospital attached to the Institute has seen an increase in respiratory illness and bronchiolitis, a condition that affects infants and young children, especially those in the three to six month age group. Children who are not breastfed and those who are exposed to crowded places or cigarette smoke are at risk.
“Bronchiolitis is usually related to the moisture content in the air that is conducive for the virus to spread and multiply. In our city it is mostly due to rain,” Dr. Ramachandran said. Children also report with allergy and asthmatic conditions, between November and January, he said. There has not been a significant rise in leptospirosis, dengue and malaria yet, but some children have been found to have milder forms of gastroenteritis, he said.
Doctors advise eating homemade food and advocate good personal hygiene. It is important to keep the house warm and dry and prevent water stagnation. Drinking water must be boiled and cooled and avoid taking infants and children below one year of age to crowded places.
Foot and mouth disease
In areas such as Vadapalani, Virugambakkam and nearby localities, doctors have treated children for hand, foot and mouth disease, a viral infection that spreads in schools as outbreaks. According to Deepa Hariharan, a neonatologist at Sooriya Hospital, there has been a higher incidence of the infection. At Kamakshi Memorial Hospital, Pallikaranai, for the past month there has been an increase in the number of patients visiting the outpatient ward. Apart from respiratory tract infection, the hospital has been treating children for dengue and gastroenteritis, said N. Rajeshwari, a consultant paediatrician.
Commonly children suffer from diarrhoea and vomiting, which doctors diagnose as gastroenteritis and flu like symptoms – higher temperature, lethargy and severe cough and cold for a few days. This condition, doctors say, is not as severe as is found in those infected with A (H1N1) influenza virus. The change in weather also results in wheezing in some children.