People should clean out their air conditioners before switching them on again as the temperature rises, as germs living within them may spread seasonal diseases, especially among children, said health experts.
“Germs may lie in air conditioners for months. When they are switched on in this season they can cause respiratory diseases and allergies. Asthma can also be aggravated in this season and asthma patients should be careful and avoid dust,” said King Edward Medical University Professor of Medicine Irsahd Hussain Qureshi.
The number of patients approaching public and private hospitals with respiratory diseases and allergies has already increased since the weather began changing, said Prof Qureshi.
Institute of Public Health (IPH) Assistant Professor Dr Shahid Malik said this was the busy season for allergies. “The weather starts getting warmer and is in a transitory phase. This is peak time for pollen allergies. Anaphylactic reactions are also common,” he said. Influenza, conjunctivitis and rhinitis are the most frequent seasonal diseases, he said.
Dr Malik said many people catch a dry cough in this weather as well. “A dry cough can be very severe, especially for those who are asthma patients. They should avoid dust, maintain a balanced diet and use hot water for gargles to avoid seasonal diseases,” he said. He said steam inhalations were a good way to keep sinuses clear while people should eat more soup.
Dr Muhammad Khalid of Services Hospital said upper respiratory tract infections were common these days. “On average the number of patients with seasonal diseases has increased by 25 to 30 percent.
This is transition weather and people have already started drinking cold water. Some are using air conditioners even. This aggravates allergies and respiratory problems,” he said.
He urged people with sneezes and coughs to use handkerchiefs so their germs don’t infect other people. “One reason for so many people catching seasonal diseases is that our living conditions indoors are not healthy. There are 10 people working in a room sitting close to each other. If one of them has the flu, at least five others will catch it. Those who are sick should take extra care,” he said.
Dr Javed Burki, a general practitioner, said he had seen an increase in the number of children coming to his clinic. “Parents should keep an eye on their kids and ensure that they don’t use cold water or sleep in air conditioned rooms. The muscles get stiff if somebody sleeps in an air conditioned room,” he said.
Dr Burki said people should take extra care to make sure that food is properly cooked. “You should also try to use fresh things instead of keeping things in the fridge and eating them afterwards in this season,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 26th, 2012.