Dr Vikas Sharma
TO celebrate Holi or not? That seems to be the question on everyone’s mind in the backdrop of coronavirus. For starters, the mid-February to mid-March period is the peak season when infectious diseases like viral skin infections, seasonal and H1N1 flu, mononucleosis, cold and cough spread. Infected people start shedding virus even before they experience the full effect of illness. So, the virus carrier may not exhibit any signs or symptoms at a very early stage, yet he can transmit the virus to the person who comes in his contact.
Every year after Holi, the OPDs of all hospitals tend to swell up with people complaining of skin and respiratory disorders. Skin allergies, skin infections, dermatitis, skin eczemas and respiratory diseases are the major problems people are afflicted with.
With changing season, viral infections are already on the rise. Therefore, chances of falling prey to infection after celebrating the festival of colours increase. And with coronavirus threatening to spread its tentacles, the situation could be even more critical this time around. As Covid-19 is a new virus, lack of immunity in the population (and the absence of an effective vaccine as of now) means that it has the potential to spread extensively. The current data suggests that everyone is susceptible to catching this virus.
Prone to catching virus
Celebrating Holi involves direct skin contact and people tend to smear colours on one another’s face. That’s dangerous because the eyes, nose and mouth are the portal of entry into the body for a virus like Covid-19 or SARS. In addition, high suspended particulates concentrations occur during Holi, and that may cause or aggravate adverse health effects like skin and respiratory irritations, making people more prone and susceptible to catching virus. Children, elderly and pregnant women are more susceptible.
Those who already have atopic dermatitis, bronchial asthma and skin eczemas should completely avoid playing holi with synthetic colors. Research on synthetic colors has found them containing a considerable amount of particles with an aerodynamic diameter smaller than 10 micrometres and they show a close association with human leukocytes, a pro-inflammatory potential. These colours can have cytotoxic effects in higher concentration and can induce an oxidative burst in human granulocytes and monocytes, thus making people extremely susceptible to viral infections.
Sift social media information
Various Whatsapp messages, mostly about how to protect oneself from the virus, are doing the rounds. Some are genuine, carrying accurate information about preventive steps. Some others spread wrong information, such as warning people against playing Holi because the colours are manufactured in China. The claims that colours can carry the virus are false. There is no evidence so far to suggest that the virus transmits from such materials to humans. And if you must celebrate the festival, do so in a smart and cautious way. Avoid mass gatherings or pool parties. Enjoy the festival with your family members at home and go for organic colours instead of synthetic colours. Also, avoid smearing each other’s face with colours.
— The writer is chief consultant dermatologist, National Skin Hospital, Mansa Devi Complex
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