Health Watch: Have a doubt? Ask the specialists (Part 2)
Fighting ENT infections
Allergies are caused by exposure to allergens in the environment. People react to these allergens differently. The symptoms are usually nasal, such as sneezing, or in the throat, such as a chronic coughing.
How to prevent allergies:
- Allergens in bedsheets occur most commonly. Wash sheets frequently in hot water, and dry them in the sun.
- Use non-allergenic pillows, duvets and mattresses. Most furnishing stores stock them.
- Avoid pets who shed–if you have them, make sure they do not come into the bedroom or sleep on your bed.
- To avoid dust in the house; substitute dusting with mopping and sweeping with vacuum cleaning.
- If your house is on a main road or adjacent to traffic, keep doors and windows closed to keep pollutants from coming in. Fit windows and doors with proper frames so that air pollutants do not enter.
- Avoid keeping flowering plants indoors.
- If you’re on a motorcycle, then be sure to wear a face mask. This can be either a large handkerchief or a rectangular piece of cloth tied behind your head–much like a surgeon’s mask.
Ear, Nose and Throat Infections
ENT infections are ubiquitous and affect everyone, from children to the elderly. Symptoms usually manifest themselves in the nose (thick nasal discharge with cheek pain, headaches, and fever), in the throat (pain or difficulty swallowing, throat swelling) or in the ear (pain, loss of hearing, swelling behind the ear).
To prevent infections
- At the first sign of a cold, use steam inhalation to clear out mucus.
- Use ear plugs while swimming to prevent “swimmer’s ear”–an external ear infection.
- Early on, sore throats and infections can be managed by simply gargling with a saline solution. Mix half a teaspoon of salt in half a glass of warm water and gargle two to three times a day. This helps wash away the local infection.
- If you have a low immune system, avoid closed or crowded areas where people cough, spit or sneeze. You are more likely to become infected in those situations.
- Treat children with colds early; otherwise, they could develop an ear infection.
- If you have a bad cold, avoid air travel since this can make the infection worse. It often ends up spreading to your sinuses or ears.
Coping with Asthma
There’s no cure for asthma, but it can be easily controlled to let the asthmatic can live a normal life. Here’s how:
- Accept it: Patients don’t like to be told they have asthma, and doctors know this. Many try to explain the diagnosis by using other words like “bronchitis” or “chest congestion.” This only delays proper treatment. My advice is to accept the diagnosis and to start looking for practical solutions.
- Have the right attitude: A person with poor vision could choose to be angry that he has to wear glasses. Or he could be happy there are simple solutions. It’s all about attitude. It’s the same with asthma. Asthma medications and inhalers are easy to use and help patients breathe normally.
- Explore alternative healing: Alternatives like yoga, homeopathy and naturopathy have something to offer asthmatics. While they don’t help all patients equally, it wouldn’t hurt to try a few different methods; however, my advice would be to not suddenly end regular treatments.
- Keep your expectations realistic: Adults rarely outgrow asthma. This is largely determined by genes which we have no control over. Environmental control and diet regulation help. If a child outgrows asthma, it will happen over years and not days, weeks or months. With proper medication, the asthmatic is usually well controlled in the sense that there are no ongoing symptoms or activity limitations. However, with seasonal changes or with a viral infection, some symptoms will appear. This is not unexpected. A slight increase in medication will usually bring things back to normal.
- Care, don’t pamper: Mothers sometimes try to overcompensate caring for an asthmatic child by overpampering. This never helps. In fact, it creates further difficulties as the child starts using asthma, sometimes subconsciously, to get his or her way.
- Be a sport: The asthmatic easily becomes breathless and is usually not involved in sports. But with proper control of asthma, the person can and should have a normal life, including sports participation. Sports involving bursts of activity are usually better than prolonged exertion like long-distance running. Swimming is usually good.
- Watch your diet: Diet can affect asthma in many ways. Some foods like peanuts, chilled beer and sea-food can immediately cause an attack. Others, like fried snacks, preservatives and certain ingredients in Chinese food promote allergies, Some foods cause acid reflux and night-time symptoms. Examples are rice or curd at night, fried food and desserts anytime. Foods that help fight asthma and allergies are those rich in antioxidants such as fruits and leafy vegetables, Vitamin C and magnesium.
- Master your emotions: Anger, frustration and depression are some common emotions that make asthma worse. Many patients classified with “difficult to control asthma” have underlying psychological issues. These must be addressed. Asthma patients who are generally optimistic tend to respond better to treatment.