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UAE: Foggy weather causes spike in flu cases

KT Photo: Shihab
KT Photo: Shihab

Dubai - Medics pointed out that the cold weather can impact people with good immunity levels as well.

By Nandini Sircar

Published: Mon 18 Jan 2021, 5:54 PM

There has been a significant rise in visits by patients complaining of runny nose, sore throat and cough for the past one week, doctors in the UAE have said.

The count has gone up as mercury levels plummet, with dense fog enveloping parts of the country recently.

Medics explained that a growing number of people have also complained of respiratory issues, as pollutants floating in the fog could have heightened the irritation, especially in asthmatics.

Dr Bobomurod Keldiyorov, a family medicine specialist at the Canadian Speciality Hospital, said: “We witnessed an increase of at least 50 per cent in patients visiting us with runny nose, sore throat and cough in the last one week. This is the result of extreme cold weather that we are experiencing this year, compared to the last year. The cold weather is at its peak at the moment and people get sick when they get exposed to it, as the body responds very quickly.”

Sounding a word of caution, healthcare professionals pointed out that the cold weather can impact people with good immunity levels as well.

Keldiyorov added: “The weather will worsen the condition of people who are already vulnerable like children, people with chronic health conditions, and especially the ones who are asthmatic, allergenic or have pre-existing respiratory disorders.”

In the current pandemic scenario, doctors explained that with a low or compromised immune response, people can be more susceptible to the coronavirus too.

“If the immune system of people is poor, further exposure to outdoors without maintaining social distancing or wearing masks and not adhering to the necessary sanitisation practices can lead to an increase in Covid-19 cases as well.

The main reason observed for common cold and flu is that people often venture outdoors without wearing proper preventive clothing to safeguard themselves from the seasonal diseases. The flu can then quickly spread among family members, colleagues and friends, especially in closed areas. It is very important to keep distance from those who display such symptoms indoors as well. Additionally, sanitisation of indoor spaces is essential,” urged Dr Keldiyorov.

Meanwhile, medics reiterated that people with underlying health conditions should limit their exposure to the cold weather, as it can trigger an attack and deteriorate their lung functions.

Dr Geoffrey Varkey, a general practitioner at Prime Medical Centre, Jumeirah Branch, said: “High risk individuals such as young children, asthmatics, patients with COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), people with cardiac diseases and allergy-prone individuals should restrict their exposure to fog as much as possible. However, if that's not possible to do so, wear filtered masks as opposed to regular ones.”

Dr Mohamed Rafique, medical director & specialist pulmonology, Prime Hospital, opined: “One should take necessary precautions to avoid worsening of asthma, which can occur especially in dense fog and on days when it’s very cold, as both these factors — dense fog and cold temperatures — can trigger bronchospasms and asthma attacks, chest congestion and breathlessness in COPD patients.

Special precautions should be taken on days when it's windy, as there are greater chances of allergens and microbes dispersal that can cause respiratory infections.”

Doctors advised that, along with normal precautions, people should avoid situations with the three C's. This includes closed spaces with poor ventilation, crowded spaces, and close-contact settings.

Dr Saheer Sainalabdeen, a specialist in respiratory medicine, Medeor Hospital Dubai and Burjeel Specialty Hospital Sharjah, said: “Fog by itself cannot cause any respiratory infections, but the pollutants and pathogenic organisms in it can cause or worsen respiratory diseases. For people with underlying respiratory conditions, these fog pollutants can aggravate their lung functions.

Cold temperature and humidity play a significant role in spiking viral infections like influenza. With the virus surviving in the air for a longer time and with people staying indoors, there is an increase in the risk of transmission of infections like influenza.”

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