The monsoons may bring a welcome relief from the scorching summer heat but it can also lead to a spurt in illnesses. Children and seniors are most likely to be affected by this flood of infection.
There is a storm of air-borne respiratory diseases with symptoms like congestion, sneezing, cough, chills etc. during the rainy season. Influenza is a common viral infection that may keep a child away from school. To prevent this, vaccinate your child with the flu vaccine at the beginning of the monsoon season. The virus strain changes every year and hence the flu vaccine is also upgraded annually according to the strain prevalent and must be given every year to be effective. The flu shot is not a compulsory vaccine but is essential for the high-risk population including children who fall prey to repeated bouts of respiratory infections, and even diabetics, asthmatics and those who have cardiac history.
25% of all child deaths in India are due to pneumonia and 30–40% of pneumonia is caused due to pneumococcal infection.2 The symptoms include high fever, chills, cough, breathing difficulty etc. Pneumococcal infections can include a wide range of dangerous conditions like severe middle ear infection, sinusitis, pneumonia and meningitis. Nowadays, with the rise in resistance to antibiotics, the risk of pneumococcal infections has escalated manifold.
Vaccination can protect your child against this lethal infection. The IAP guidelines recommend the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine in three doses at age 6 weeks, 10 weeks and 14 weeks and a booster at age 15 months.1
In India, questionable sanitation and hygiene facilities lead to a spate in infections that strike under the belt and cause gastric symptoms. Consumption of uncovered food prepared by roadside vendors who might be using contaminated water or might be carriers of dangerous infections should be totally avoided during the rains.
Ensure that your kids drink only purified water, eat only home-cooked meals and practise good hand hygiene. Proper washing of vegetables and fruits is also essential.
Hepatitis A is a serious viral infection that spreads through contaminated food and water. There is no cure for hepatitis A. It resolves on its own in a few weeks but can cause a lot of suffering and keep children away from school and play for some weeks. Your kid may not be able to eat complete meals for several weeks. If he/ she is dehydrated, hospitalization may be needed. Hepatitis A can be prevented by a safe and effective vaccination. The Hepatitis A vaccine is part of the compulsory immunization schedule for your child and is given either in 2 doses at the age of 12 and 18 months (inactivated form) or a single dose at 12 months (active form).1 So be sure to give him/ her the Hepatitis A vaccine on time for protection.
Cholera is another deadly disease caused by bacteria that spreads through infected food or water. In India, rainfall provides the most appropriate mechanism for spread of cholera through cross-contamination of water. 3
Cholera causes severe diarrhoea and dehydration. Vaccination is the best way to prevent this disease and your doctor may recommend it if you are residing in a highly-prone area or travelling to areas where the risk is very high. 1
Typhoid is a perilous bacterial disease that can be lethal if not treated on time. The incidence of typhoid surges during the monsoons due to mixing in drinking and sewage water. Typhoid causes symptoms like stomach pain and vomiting along with high fever. The typhoid vaccine can protect your child from this potential danger.
The typhoid vaccine is given to a baby in the form of two doses, the first between nine months and twelve months and the booster dose at 2 years.1
Rotavirus is a virus that is the leading cause of severe diarrhoea and death in infants under 5 years. 4 Vaccination can arm your baby with protection against this deadly virus. Make sure that your child has received all three doses of rotavirus vaccination recommended by the IAP to be given to infants at ages 6 weeks, 10 weeks and 14 weeks. 1
Other vector-borne diseases like malaria and dengue may also surge during the rains but unfortunately these do not have vaccinations for prevention. Take precautions against them by wearing long-sleeved clothing and using mosquito repellents. Another illness that arises due to accumulation of water contaminated with animal waste is leptospirosis. Guard against it by not letting your child wade through dirty water and always making him/ her wear protected footwear.
To summarize, vaccinations can prevent your child from suffering from a shower of many common monsoon illnesses. Ensure that your child’s vaccination schedule is updated and ask your doctor about catch-up vaccines if he/ she has missed any shots.
strains change every year, therefore, the vaccine is also upgraded annually and needs to be taken once a year
- http://acvip.org/professional/columns/iap-immunization- schedule-2016 table-form
- Am J Trop Med Hyg. 2013 Sep 4; 89(3): 597–607.
- J Clin Microbiol. 2004 Dec; 42(12): 5745–5750.