HEALTH & FITNESS

How rains bring water-borne diseases
Dr R. Kumar

The rainy season is the most enjoyable part of the year. However, with the monsoon having arrived, it is time to be cautious about water contamination and the diseases like cholera, gastroenteritis, jaundice, dehydration, typhoid and even polio.

Ankle injuries: importance of first-aid
Dr Ravinder Chadha

One of the commonly sustained injuries of the weight-bearing joints is ankle sprain. Common occurrence is related to exercises, stepping off a curve, falling into a pothole or losing the balance even while walking on uneven surface.

The Pill may protect against ovarian cancer
London: The benefit of the contraceptive pill is not just limited to inhibiting normal fertility, for a new study has found that these pills can protect a woman against ovarian cancer for at least 20 years after she stops taking it.

Health Notes
Coffee is good for older women’s memory

Washington: Drinking coffee really does have its benefits if you’re a woman, and over the age of 65, for it will help protect your memory.

  • Green tea could ward off skin disorders

  • ‘Lab on a chip’ may revolutionise disease diagnosis

  • Being fat is now ‘normal’


 

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How rains bring water-borne diseases
Dr R. Kumar

The rainy season is the most enjoyable part of the year. However, with the monsoon having arrived, it is time to be cautious about water contamination and the diseases like cholera, gastroenteritis, jaundice, dehydration, typhoid and even polio.

Each day news headlines warn about the outbreak of diarrhoeal diseases. Drinking water is the most probable vehicle of transmission for pathogens in the case of cholera, and improvements in general hygiene and mechanisms of excreta disposal are necessary for reducing transmission. Adequate supply of fresh and clean drinking water is a basic need for all human beings, yet it has been observed that millions of people countrywide are deprived of this.

In the urban areas water gets contaminated in many ways, some of the most common reasons being leaky water-pipe joints in areas where the water-pipe and sewage line pass close together. Sometimes water gets polluted at source due to various reasons and mainly due to the inflow of sewage into the source. Untreated or inadequately treated municipal sewage is a major source of groundwater and surface water pollution in the country.

People complain that “garbage littered in the area is the root cause of diseases, but civic body did not pay any heed to their pleas and this was the reason behind their dismal condition.” People should not allow the house refuse/garbage to be littered around their houses. The organic material that is discharged with municipal waste into the watercourses uses substantial oxygen for biological degradation, thereby upsetting the ecological balance of rivers and lakes. Sewage also carries microbial pathogens that are the cause of the spread of disease.

Most diarrhoeas and other infectious are transmitted through faecal waste. Pathogens --- which include virus, bacteria, protozoa and parasitic worms --- are disease-producing agents found in the faeces of infected persons. Exposure to polluted water can cause diarrhoea, skin irritation, respiratory problems and other diseases, depending on the pollutant that is in the water body.

Stagnant water and other untreated water provide a habitat for the mosquito and a host of other parasites and insects that cause a large number of diseases, especially in the tropical regions. Among these, malaria and dengue are undoubtedly the most widely distributed and cause most damage to human health. Dengue fever is sweeping South-East Asia in an outbreak of the mosquito-borne virus that is already threatening to become the worst epidemic in almost a decade.

What can you do?

  • Wash your hands with soap and water again and again --- before cooking food, before serving food, before taking food, after visiting the toilet, etc. Observe strict hygiene.
  • Avoid consuming outside/ roadside food as it gets contaminated during the monsoon. Drains accumulated water from your surroundings and consume only boiled and filtered water. Do not drink water from an unprotected source.
  • Wear gum boots while going out, so that your feet do not get exposed to dirty/ sewage water. Try to keep yourself dry as dampness has a tendency to give birth to fungal and other skin infections. Avoid moist clothes.
  • Avoid seafood as it gets contaminated during this season and causes food poisoning. Prefer vegetarian food that has been freshly cooked at home.
  • Attend to any wounds immediately as contact with rainwater can infect it.
  • Asthmatics need to be extra careful as change of weather can trigger asthma attacks.
  • Use lukewarm water and medicated soap for bathing.
  • All vegetables and fruits should be washed in flowing clean water.

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Ankle injuries: importance of first-aid
Dr Ravinder Chadha

One of the commonly sustained injuries of the weight-bearing joints is ankle sprain. Common occurrence is related to exercises, stepping off a curve, falling into a pothole or losing the balance even while walking on uneven surface.

Immediately after an injury hot fomentation and the application of an analgesic ointment seem to be the rule. These measures not only increase the problem but also delay healing. Hot fomentation increases the swelling by enhancing blood circulation to be injured part. It is imperative to go in for such first-aid measures as do not allow the swelling to increase so that the healing time can be cut short.

The ankle is sprained often when weight is applied to the foot when on an uneven surface, causing the foot to “roll in” or turn inwards (inversion of the foot). The sole of the foot points inwards as force is applied, thereby exerting stress on the ligaments, which lend stability to the outer aspect of the ankle, usually expressed as “snap” or “pop” by the affected individuals. Common complaint is difficulty in walking or weight bearing, and in a short span the outer side of the injured ankle swells, leading to agonising pain. In such cases, there is the suspicion of a broken ankle.

The site of pain and the accompanying swelling and bruising generally indicates as to which of the ligaments are injured. The most common site is the outer aspect of the ankle. Occasionally, in cases of severe injuries both medial and lateral ligaments are damaged. The degree of swelling and bruising may usually, but not always, be an indication of severity of the injury.

Grade 1 --- Mild sprain is a stretch of the ligament with no macroscopic tear, slight swelling/tenderness. There is no functional impairment and no joint instability.

Grade II — Moderate ankle sprain is associated with a partial ligament tear, moderate swelling/ tenderness. There may be some loss of joint function and minimal joint instability.

Grade III --- Severe sprain is associated with a complete tearing of the ligaments with profound swelling, ecchymosis and tenderness. This is accompanied by instability to bear weight on the extremity and mechanical joint instability.

Treatment

In order to achieve healing faster it is imperative to minimise the swelling which is present in and around the ankle. Most sprains heal completely within a few weeks. In cases of severe injury, the rehabilitation process becomes more complex and extensive.

First 24 hours — One should never use analgesic rubs and hot fomentation and avoid alcohol intake as they increase swelling by enhancing blood circulation to the injured part. Aspirin should also be avoided as it prolongs the clotting time of blood and may lead to increased bleeding into the ankle. However, paracetamol or Ibuprofen may be taken to decrease pain although it will not speed up the healing process.

Rest for approximately 24 hours after the injury.

Initiate isometric exercises to increase static strength with the toes pointing up and then down, progressing to the toes pointing in and then out (each exercise for 6-8 counts).

Apply ice every two hours for 20 minutes to decrease pain and swelling for the first 24-48 hours. Do not place ice on the ankle beyond 30 minutes.

Elevation of the foot higher than the waist level reduces swelling and pain even while sleeping. Elevation allows gravity to work with the lymphatic system and decreases hydrostatic pressure, thereby leading to a decreased fluid loss. This also assists in venous and lymphatic return through gravity.

Protection of ankle during the initial healing phase is extremely important. Taping, ankle stir-up, brace/crepe bandage and in severe cases leg cast are applied. In some cases crutches are used till pain-free weight-bearing is achieved.

Most cases of acute ankle injury resolve satisfactorily with treatment. Individuals who do not undertake appropriate treatment and rehabilitation do complain of pain, swelling and looseness of the ankle and feeling of giving away, leading to chronic ankle laxity or instability. Ankle injury patients should return to activity only on achieving a full range of motion, total strength of the ankle (vis-à-vis that of the normal ankle), otherwise the treatment and rehabilitation becomes tedious and complex.

The writer is a former doctor/physiotherapist, Indian cricket team.

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The Pill may protect against ovarian cancer

London: The benefit of the contraceptive pill is not just limited to inhibiting normal fertility, for a new study has found that these pills can protect a woman against ovarian cancer for at least 20 years after she stops taking it.

The Harvard Medical School, Boston, researchers found that the longer a woman uses the contraceptive pill, the less likely she is to develop the disease, with the period of five to 10 years giving the best protection when she stops using it, reports The Daily Mail.

The 28-year study into contraceptive methods and the disease, which involved more than 100,000 women, allowed the researchers to inspect the long-term effects of different contraceptive methods.

Disturbingly, the researchers found that the old coil, an intrauterine device, or IUD, fitted in the 1970s and 1980s, increased the chances of ovarian cancer by 76 per cent.

The researchers also found that women who were infertile had a 36 per cent greater risk when compared to those who were fertile. — ANI

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Health Notes

Coffee is good for older women’s memory

Washington: Drinking coffee really does have its benefits if you’re a woman, and over the age of 65, for it will help protect your memory.

The finding is based on a study conducted by researchers at the French National Institute for Health and Medical Research, in Montpellier, France, who were led by Dr Karen Ritchie.

The study involved 7,000 people whose cognitive abilities and caffeine consumption were evaluated over four years.

The researchers found that women aged 65 and older who drank more than three cups of coffee (or the equivalent in tea) per day had less decline over time on tests of memory than women who drank one cup or less of coffee or tea per day. — ANI

Green tea could ward off skin disorders

Washington: A new study has found that green tea could prove to be a promising new treatment for skin disorders such as psoriasis and dandruff.

Researchers at Medical College of Georgia studied an animal model for inflammatory skin diseases, which are often characterized by patches of dry, red, flaky skin caused by the inflammation and overproduction of skin cells. The researchers found that those treated with green tea showed slower growth of skin cells and the presence of a gene that regulates the cells’ life cycles.

“Psoriasis, an autoimmune disease, causes the skin to become thicker because the growth of skin cells is out of control. In psoriasis, immune cells, which usually protect against infection, instead trigger the release of cytokines, which causes inflammation and the overproduction of skin cells,” says Dr. Stephen Hsu, an oral biologist in the MCG School of Dentistry and lead investigator on the study. — ANI

‘Lab on a chip’ may revolutionise disease diagnosis

Washington: Researchers at Florida State University have developed a novel device that may speed up the diagnosis of various human diseases through the blood test.

“Lab on a chip”, as the device is called, is a tiny microchip that makes possible the diagnosis of diseases just by testing a single drop of blood.

“Currently, a doctor seeking to help a sick patient may take a blood sample and send it out to a laboratory. In three or four days, the lab results will come back and the doctor will have a better idea of what ails the patient,” said Thomas Fischer, an associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, one of the researchers who designed the device.

“With the ‘lab on a chip,’ however, it might be possible to take a single drop of the patient’s blood, place it on a small chip, and then be able to provide a very quick, inexpensive and — most important — accurate diagnosis,” Fischer added. — ANI

Being fat is now ‘normal’

Washington: Women no longer mind putting on weight, for it has become socially acceptable to be fat, a new study has revealed.

The paper, “Social Dynamics of Obesity”, is the first to provide a mathematical model of the impact of economic, biological and social factors on aggregate body weight distribution. It also is one of the first studies to suggest that weight norms may change and are not set standards based on beauty or medical ideals. — ANI

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