Tips on preventing infectious diseases in elderly during monsoon

ByZarafshan Shiraz, New Delhi
Sep 08, 2023 01:10 PM IST

To ensure the well-being and safety of elderly, it becomes essential to implement effective preventive measures during this damp and humid season of monsoon

The monsoon season ushers in a higher risk of infectious diseases, especially for the elderly population since seniors, with their weaker immune systems and pre-existing health conditions, are particularly susceptible to illnesses. To ensure their well-being and safety, it becomes essential to implement effective preventive measures during this damp and humid period.

Tips on preventing infectious diseases in elderly during monsoon (Photo by Perry Wunderlich on Pexels)
Tips on preventing infectious diseases in elderly during monsoon (Photo by Perry Wunderlich on Pexels)

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Divya Singh, Senior Surgeon at Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital and Director at Maaiya Social Change Front Foundation, asserted, “In an era where global health is an ever-evolving landscape, staying informed about emerging infectious diseases is paramount. According to clinical statistics, infectious diseases present notable threats to public health, accounting for nearly 13.7 million deaths globally, with respiratory and bloodstream infections proving the most lethal. Across the course of history, spanning from past pandemics like plague, smallpox, and the recent Covid-19 to persistent health challenges like tuberculosis, AIDS and hepatitis, these diseases have imposed substantial clinical burdens.”

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According to her, “Ailments such as malaria, flu and cholera contribute to remarkable annual statistics, underscoring the critical need for a robust and comprehensive public health infrastructure. With the rise of novel pathogens, the emergence of drug-resistant strains and changing disease patterns, understanding the origins and dynamics and implementing proactive measures is of utmost importance. Mitigating the dissemination of infectious diseases necessitates a comprehensive approach tailored to the disease type, transmission mode, and local circumstances. Vaccination and hygiene practices are the foremost pillars for combating infectious diseases.”

She advised, “Practicing proper hand hygiene, maintaining sanitary environments, and creating awareness about hygiene practices and disease transmission empowers individuals to fight against infectious diseases and prevent their spread. In addition to timely detection, responsive action, and robust surveillance systems, isolating infected individuals and implementing quarantine measures can collectively bolster public health resilience and foster a shield against infectious disease proliferation. Remaining up to date with the latest vaccinations and following up with the recurrent yearly vaccinations helps build herd immunity especially for the children, elderly and immunocompromised. Governments have a responsibility of monitoring & surveillance to catch and detect emerging infections however, keeping ourselves vigilant of any emerging symptoms in our neighborhood is the responsibility of every citizen & members of communities. Lastly, practicing ways to boost immunity and aiding the natural defense of body to fight and ward off infection will aid not just in preventing infectious diseases but long term health and higher immune tolerance too. These include exercise, proper diet, quality sleep, natural immune boosting foods and optimum vitamin, micronutrients and minerals intake.”

Dr Veena Aggarwal, Trustee at Heart Care Foundation of India, CMD and Group Editor-in-Chief at IJCP Group of Publications and Medtalks, shared, “In our dynamic global environment, emerging infectious diseases pose significant public health risks. Societal, technological, and environmental shifts continually influence infectious diseases on a global scale, leading to new disease emergence and the resurgence of existing ones, often in drug-resistant forms. From historical pandemics like plague and smallpox to chronic ailments such as tuberculosis and syphilis, these diseases impose substantial clinical burdens. Malaria, sexually transmitted diseases, tuberculosis, and cholera present staggering annual statistics, emphasizing the necessity for a robust public health framework. Recent statistics witnessed 13·7 million deaths worldwide from infectious syndromes, with respiratory infections and bloodstream infections being the deadliest.”

She revealed, “According to clinical studies, modern factors, including rapid population growth, urban migration, poverty, international travel, changes in disease-transmitting animal habitats, compromised immunity and alterations in food distribution, are chief contributors to the rise of infectious diseases. Additionally, frequent visits to clinics, hospital stays, and being in close contact with healthcare professionals can also elevate the risk of hospital-acquired infections, predominantly bloodstream infections (BSI), pneumonia (e.g., ventilator-associated pneumonia [VAP]), urinary tract infections (UTI), and surgical site infections (SSI). The recent rise in incidences of antibiotic-resistant pathogens caused due to drug overuse is further aggravating the risk and severity of infectious diseases underscoring the urgent need for a comprehensive understanding, proactive prevention, and effective control strategies.”

Dr Veena Aggarwal highlighted, “Though combating infectious diseases involves a multifaceted approach tailored to disease type, transmission mode, and local conditions, vaccination and good hygiene practices are preliminary steps toward disease control. Regular hand washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and covering the nose and mouth while sneezing can prevent the transmission of germs. Moreover, access to clean water and adequate sanitation facilities are critical to manage the spread and eliminate disease-causing pathogens. In addition to raising mass awareness, early detection, rapid response, and effective surveillance systems also play a significant role in infectious disease management. As new diseases continue to emerge, preemptive action is essential.”

She recommended, “Establishing vigilant public health systems, international collaboration, research, and information sharing are pivotal in addressing global infectious disease threats. Such collective initiatives hold the potential to yield novel treatments, develop requisite vaccines, and formulate suitable strategies for disease prevention and control, eventually benefiting communities worldwide. Ultimately it boils down to each one practicing one - if we keep ourselves and our surroundings clean, the world will be a more hygienic and liveable place for everyone.”

Dr Vishal Sehgal, President at Portea Medical, suggested -

  • Personal hygiene: Encourage regular handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after coming into contact with potentially contaminated surfaces. Hand sanitizers can be used as an alternative when soap and water are not available.
  • Vaccinations: Ensuring that elderly individuals are up-to-date with their vaccinations is crucial. Vaccines such as the flu shot and the one for pneumonia can provide added protection during the monsoon season.
  • Personal and home hygiene: A clean living environment goes a long way in preventing the spread of infectious diseases. Regularly disinfect frequently-touched surfaces, such as doorknobs, light switches and tabletops.
  • Nutrition and diet: A balanced diet is essential for maintaining a strong immune system. Encourage the consumption of a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Adequate hydration is also crucial. Consider incorporating traditional herbal remedies known for their immune-boosting properties, such as turmeric, ginger, and holy basil (Tulsi), into the elderly's diet. Probiotic-rich foods like yogurt can help maintain a healthy gut microbiome, which plays a vital role in overall immune function.
  • Appropriate clothing: Wearing suitable clothing is vital to protect against dampness and humidity. It is advisable to wear closed shoes and long-sleeved clothing to protect against waterborne infections and skin-related issues.
  • Medications: Elderly individuals with chronic health conditions must adhere to their prescribed medications and treatment plans. Regular monitoring of vital parameters such as blood pressure, blood sugar, and medication adherence is crucial to preventing complications.
  • Exercise and fitness: Engaging in light indoor exercises can help seniors stay physically active even during the monsoon season. Exercise boosts circulation, strengthens the immune system, and contributes to overall well-being.
  • Tech enabled care: Being aware of potential risks and taking necessary precautions can significantly reduce the likelihood of falling ill. Technology can also provide the much-needed support to the elderly by offering convenience and safety, enabling them to consult healthcare professionals from the comfort of their homes. Health apps, home healthcare services offer a tangible way for seniors to actively engage in their health management, providing tools for monitoring vital signs, adhering to medication schedules and accessing reliable health-related information at their doorstep.

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