Depression and water-borne diseases are health concerns in the rainy season. / Korea Times file
By Yoon Ja-young
The monsoon season has gripped the country and we will be seeing days of rain followed by brief sunshine for the next few weeks. There are a number of health concerns in the rainy season such as water-borne diseases. Prof. Kang Hee-cheol at the Severance Hospital has several tips below on how to stay healthy.
There is plenty of water in this season, but the body still needs more — as the weather is not only humid but also hot; the body loses a lot of water through perspiration.
Water is an essential part of our body and almost all metabolism is related to it. As our body loses water equivalent to around 4 percent of our weight every day, however, the doctor said that one should take in at least 1.5 liters of water daily. He said that people should make a habit of drinking plenty of water as some people, especially the elderly, may not recognize that they have thirst due to dehydration, which hampers cognitive function and exercise capacity. People become dehydrated when they lose water equivalent to 1 percent of their body weight. "Chronic dehydration and insufficient intake of water lead to physical imbalances and impaired immunity, making people vulnerable to diverse diseases. They should drink steadily," Prof. Kang said.
Drinking alcohol should be avoided as it is a diuretic that can lead to dehydration.
When perspiring a lot, people are likely to gulp down water, but the doctor recommends sipping slowly as drinking a lot of water suddenly puts pressure on the heart and kidneys.
According to a survey on 1,085 people in their 20s and 30s by Career, a job market information portal, 68 percent said they feel depressed in the monsoon season. Many people do so as the rain limits their outdoor activities. Those who already have depression may see their symptoms getting worse. The doctor advises that cleaning their home and changing the decor may be helpful.
In this season, the discomfort index soars with the rising temperature and humidity. People feel clammy as sweat lingers on, and bedding also feels damp. Running the heating system temporarily or using a dehumidifier may get rid of the dampness, making the home cozier.
After rainfall, outbreaks of diseases such as typhoid and cholera may follow. People can get typhoid by drinking water without boiling it in an area contaminated with feces after flooding. The symptoms include a continuing high fever, headaches and pain all over the body. People also experience severe stomachache and diarrhea. Those who are victims of flooding should always boil drinking water and immediately see a doctor if they develop symptoms. The most important thing, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is to wash hands thoroughly.
Food poisoning is also common as bacteria proliferate in the hot and humid atmosphere. Symptoms include stomachaches and diarrhea, sometimes accompanied by vomiting and fever. People usually recover without much problem when they get treatment. The doctor stressed that food should be stored in a refrigerator. "If food has gone bad with toxins produced by bacteria, the toxins won't be destroyed even if you boil the food. When the food seems to have gone stale, throw it away without hesitation," he said. Foods should be heated sufficiently before eating, and cooked food shouldn't be stored too long before consumption. Those who have diarrhea or have cuts on their hands should refrain from cooking.
Fungus can live anywhere when humidity, temperature, and nutritional conditions are met. The wet season is their heyday. People may get athlete's foot as many perspire a lot from their feet while the ventilation is poor. The doctor advises that people should wash their feet and dry them completely when they come home.
Japanese encephalitis, transmitted by the mosquitoes carrying the virus, is another seasonal disease as mosquitoes breed in water. Though 95 percent of those infected will get over if without any symptoms, the fatality rate is high once they develop encephalitis, or an acute inflammation of the brain. The disease is most common between late July and early October, and children aged between five and nine are the most vulnerable. People should avoid mosquitoes, refraining from going out between evening and dawn when mosquitoes are most active, and children should get vaccinations.
Advice: Prof. Kang Hee-cheol at Severance Hospital