Diseases in winter

Diseases in winter

 

Supakorn Rojananin

Deputy Dean of Public Relations and Special Affairs,

 Faculty of  Medicine Siriraj Hospital

 

             It is undoubtedly that most people like to have winter last for a couple of months in Bangkok rather than a few days as it actually is. However, in the northern and northeastern part of Thailand especially in the mountain top, the weather is cold with the temperature dropping down below 10° C. Winter in the upper hemisphere of the earth usually comes at the end of the year at which time people would cerebrate their holiday eve or new year with a long days off for traveling or reunion with their families. To have a joyful holiday as expected, people should keep their bodies fit since many winter diseases can attack at anytime, any place and any person.

 

Heart attack spikes in winter morning

            Studies from the US demonstrate that more heart attacks occur nationwide during winter than other season. Specifically, the risk of heart attack is 40% higher in the morning compared to any other time of day. The people at risk are those who have high blood pressure (hypertension). The physical stresses of cold weather offer one explanation for the seasoning heart attack phenomenon. For example, cold temperatures cause arteries to tighten, blood to clot more easily, and blood flow to slow significantly, and the blood pressure surges more common in the morning, thereby increasing workload to the heart. In addition, people tend to be less active, eat and drink more, have less exercise, weight gain, emotional stress for the holiday expense, and increased prevalence of respiratory infection (I.e., influenza)

            In Thailand, more than 6 million people suffer from hypertension and only one third knows the condition and was properly treated. Therefore, ones should have yourselves checked and keep your blood pressure and your heart conditions under control with your medication, reduction of rich, fatty food and alcohol, stay active both physically and mentally and keep away from flu.

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Influenza   

            Influenza (flu) is the most common disease that generally spreads in winter. The reason why the influenza outbreak occurs seasonally rather than uniformly throughout the year remains unclear. It is a contagious disease caused by RNA virus. The name comes from the old medical belief in unfavorable astrological “influences“ as the cause of the disease. There are 3 types of virus:  A, B, and C.  The B and C viruses infect only in human whereas the virus A can infect mammals ( humans, pigs, horses) and birds and is most likely to cause endemics or pandemics. This is because the influenza  A virus can undergo antigenic shift and present a new immune target to susceptible people. The influenza virus forms with 2 essential viral proteins (haemagglutinin and neuraminidase). Thus one might speak of H1N1 or H3N2 viral strains for instance.

 

            The virus attacks the respiratory tract, is transmitted from person to person by droplets from cough or sneezing. The incubation period is about 1-3 days before the symptoms occur. When people get flu, it is not just getting a common cold. Even though both flu and common cold may be associated with cough and running nose, but severe muscle aches, high fever, headache, sore throat, and sudden onset of symptoms may be more common with influenza. People may get a lot sicker and that need to be out of work to stay in bed or hospitalized for a week. However most people will recover in one or two weeks, but few develop life- threatening complications such as pneumonia and heart problems.  According to Dr. Weerasak Muangpaisan, Department of Preventive Medicine, Faculty of Medicine Siriraj Hospital, there were about 20,000 to 50,000 Thai people per year affected by the flu with only less than 10 cases died from the disease and most of them are elderly.

 

            There are many factors concerning the severity of the disease that vary each year. In some part of Asia, where humans, pig, and birds are in close proximity, simultaneous infections across species enable genetic material to be exchanged between the various strains of flu. This appears to be the principle method by which new infectious strains arise and sooner or later, a recombination may occur to produce a strain as lethal as the 1918 Spanish Flu virus which was pandemic-ally erupted during the final stages of World War I (1918-19) killing more people in total than those dying in the war. Populations who are at higher risk of getting flu or flu complications than  others are those elderly, children,  people with chronic health problems such as asthma, congestive heart failure, and compromised immune systems (AIDS victims, those undergoing chemotherapy, etc.), or personnel  working in the hospital, nursing home, day care centers.

 

            Vaccination is the key to flu-free winter as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta. The group that can benefit most from vaccination, however, is the elderly since most deaths from flu occur among people over 65 years of age. Influenza vaccination may also reduce the risk of death from heart attack in patients admitted with coronary syndromes with also a beneficial trend in the quiescent phase of ischemia.

 

Hypothermia  

             Hypothermia is a lowering of the core body temperature (37°C). Elderly and those with chronic diseases and bed ridden are prone to have a hypothermic condition when exposed to cold and wind without enough towel and cloth. If the temperature drops too low (below 30°C), one will lose consciousness. Shivering is the first sign followed by loss of coordination, mental confusion, blue skin, weak pulse, irregular heart beat, coma and death. However, keeping the body warm by setting fire should be aware of all time that it may cause fire and burn oneself.

 

No drug, no drink when drive

            For your joyful new- year holiday, remember that traffic accidents occur most frequent during this period. To protect yourself and other decent people from accident, please drive with care and conscious, stay away from drugs and drink.

            Lastly, all the staff members of Siriraj Hospital and The Nation wish you all enjoy with prosperity and happiness, be healthy, beauty and smart for the year to come.