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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Rollercoaster weather takes health for a ride

The freak fluctuation in city temperatures over the past few days has led to more than just a spike in viral infections. Other than cough, cold and respiratory problems that are characteristic of a flip-flop weather, several Mumbaikars have also been seeking medical advice for loss of appetite, digestion troubles and overall lethargy. 

    City doctors told TOI on Thursday that they have been tending to complaints of low blood pressure, lack of focus and day-long drowsiness as well. They reason that these could be an outcome of metabolic imbalance, as body cells may not be able to cope with the extreme fluctuation of over 15 degrees Celsius in day and night temperatures. Doctors said that any gap in temperatures beyond 15 degrees can affect one's health and coping mechanism. 
    Dr Hemant Thacker, who consults at Jaslok and Breach Candy hospitals, said, "The tempera
ture clock exposes the internal cellular metabolism to this 
fluctuation, which then cannot function normally." He said that by the time the cell adapts to the high temperature outside, it is already evening and cooler, and the cycle continues. 
    Dr Shahid Barmare, who consults in Kohinoor Hospital, seconded that after extreme heat during the day, the body is unable to adapt to a dip in temperature at night, and then, it's back to hot weather the next day. "Apart from an increase in respiratory worries, we are also seeing a high number gastrointestinal problems." Explaining the phenomenon, Barmare said even food tends to get stale fas
ter in this weather. "Moreover, because humidity increases during the day (which causes people to sweat more), there are a few cases of dehydration too, especially among children and the elderly." 
    Besides, said Thacker, "special functions" such as thinking, eating, sleeping and digestion can get affected. "A person may suffer behavioural dysfunction... Moreover, the cells want water during the day because of the heat. But by night, the cells do not know what to do with the excess water they have collected during the day. Thus, the body passes more urine during the night and preserves water in the day. The kidneys too work overtime." 
    Dr Khusrav Bajan, intensivist at Hinduja Hospital, though, remained hopeful that Mumbaikars would 
weather the erratic temperatures. He said the current conditions are not as extreme and the body's thermal system is good enough to combat the fluctuation. "More viruses are thriving and thus there are more viral infections 
    —including respiratory 
    infections and conjunctivitis. The body needs good 
    hydration, regardless of the season. Since we feel hungry and eat more in winters, it does become a bit of a problem during the transition period between seasons—as it is now. Sweat glands get constricted at night, so there is no sweat and energy is conserved. That, however, is not the case during the day, which is why one may feel tired or lazy." 
    Doctors advised Mumbaikars to minimize exposure to extreme temperatures by not entering an air-conditioned room right after coming from outside heat. Avoid extreme body exertion and eat easily digestible food, they added.

SUN BLOCK: (Above and below left) Tourists and Mumbaikars take cover against the sudden heat on Thursday; (left) pigeons make the most of a puddle


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