While wearing double masks, which helps create a strong barrier against Covid-19 infection spread via airborne viral particles, has become the new normal, prolonged wearing of masks can develop hydration issues or other nagging breathing troubles, health experts said on Wednesday.
There has been enough evidence through the pandemic to show the importance of masks for effective pandemic control. At the start of the pandemic, it was seen that countries (primarily Asian nations) which enforced early masking had lesser mortality rates as compared to countries in the West where compulsory mask wearing was introduced quite late.
"Prolonged mask wearing can be associated with certain problems the most common being headaches, dehydration, acne and difficulty in breathing," Radhika Banka, Consultant Pulmonologist at P.D. Hinduja Hospital & MRC, Mumbai, told IANS.
Breathing issues are "usually seen in mouth breathers and in people with underlying respiratory problems such as COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)", she added.
According to Ravi Shekhar Jha, Additional Director and HOD, Pulmonology, at Fortis Escorts Hospital, Faridabad, wearing double mask for long hours can also lead to dryness.
"It is because natural humidification of nasal mucosa gets impaired," Jha said.
There are various masks available in the market, including cloth masks, surgical masks and respirators such as N-95s.
The cloth mask has the least protection and the US Centre of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends wearing a disposable surgical mask along with a cloth mask for additional protection. For surgical masks, the knotted technique (that is knotting the ear loops to provide better fit and prevent leakage from the sides) is recommended.
But with full vaccination rolled out in most countries, are double masks still required?
"Even after double dose vaccination, people can get breakthrough infections and can still be asymptomatic carriers and spread the infection. Hence masking is important even after double vaccination," Banka said.
The health experts stated that for people living in India, double masks become more important as vaccination of children has not yet begun in the country, and asymptomatic transmission is the highest from children. Added to this is a high population density, where social distancing is not practically possible in many cases.
Most of the countries which have made masks voluntary are those in the West with low population density, where social distancing is feasible. These countries have managed to vaccinate more than 80 per cent of their population with two doses. Also, masks in these countries are still recommended in enclosed spaces, public transports, healthcare facilities etc.
"With only 48 per cent of our population being vaccinated with one dose and 25 per cent being vaccinated with two doses, I do not think India can yet take the risk of removing the mandatory use of masks," Banka said.
However, according to Jha, "A single mask, if worn properly, is sufficient."
"People who wear double masks, have this tendency of adjusting their masks repeatedly due to breathing issues, and that way the whole purpose of wearing a mask is defeated," he said.
Jha added that for someone like a healthcare worker, who is in an area with high concentration of Covid viral droplets, an N-95 mask should be worn all the time. For other situations, a normal surgical mask (single) is sufficient.
"We need to ensure that masks are worn properly, with proper seal at nose. Improperly worn masks are more dangerous. It is also important to keep in mind that a mask alone may not protect. One needs to follow hand hygiene as well as maintain social distancing," Jha advised.
Although several countries have loosened mask restrictions citing vaccine efficacy, various studies and health experts have stressed on the need for continuing wearing masks, even after being fully vaccinated, including booster shots; and following other protective measures such as physical distancing and handwashing.
A recent study led by researchers from the Monash University and the University of Edinburgh analysed more than 30 studies from around the world and found a statistically significant 53 per cent reduction in the incidence of Covid with mask wearing, and 25 per cent reduction with physical distancing. Handwashing also indicated a substantial 53 per cent reduction in Covid incidence.
Most people are able to wear masks fairly well for a few hours, but if your job requires you to wear masks for a prolonged period, it is essential to take adequate breaks to hydrate oneself and prevent any skin problems, Banka suggested. (Agency)
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Winters are one of the most splendid times of the year. Delicious baked goods, coupled with a cup of hot chocolate, are an absolute treat. The winter season brings us closer to family and friends over festive celebrations. Nevertheless, winters are harsh and can take a toll on one's health. While being in a festive mood, it is essential not to forget to keep yourself warm and watch out for potential infections.
The holiday season sees an exchange of many gifts. To enjoy the holiday spirit thoroughly, you must stay healthy. Turmeric is a magic ingredient that can be used almost in every dish and helps you to remain healthy. It works as an antifungal, antibacterial, and antiviral that works as an immunity booster.
Here are some exclusive benefits of adding turmeric to your winter diet:
Physical Ailments: Turmeric is a natural substance found on the earth. Its healing properties include relief from common winter sinus, painful joints, indigestion, and cold and cough. For instant relief, you can add a pinch of turmeric to drinks like milk and tea. Daily consumption of turmeric can also help control blood sugar levels.
Winters: The holiday season is a joyous time, and we tend to indulge in alcohol and other unhealthy food items. What we call "holiday weight" can be unidentified health issues by the end of the season. A hint of turmeric can go a long way towards improving liver function. Turmeric is an antioxidant that benefits the body from the inside out.
To survive the harsh winters, one must consume foods rich in fats and proteins. We also consume hot beverages that may be soothing but upset the digestive system. Turmeric adds flavour to food and aids digestion. Consuming food with turmeric also gives a healthy glow to your skin, as the body gets rid of toxins.
Ancient Medicine: Turmeric has been a part of Asian food items and Ayurveda for many centuries. The healing properties of turmeric, which are especially significant during the winter, are magical. The main benefit is that it is a natural antioxidant. It helps you cleanse your body of harmful substances.
Flu Season: The beginning of winter marks the onset of the flu season. In most Asian households, turmeric milk is a natural medicine. Many pregnant women also seek comfort in turmeric milk in the mild flu. Turmeric helps eliminate bacterial infection and provides relief to sore throats.
Turmeric is a household favourite throughout the year. It is not only a good condiment, but also a healer. Spicing things up with turmeric is wise since artificial flavours and chemicals are part of our food groups. The healing properties of turmeric were studied for its blood-thinning properties, reducing the risk of cancer and treating Alzheimer's. (Health tips by Yashna Garg, Nutraceutical Expert, ZeoNutra)
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Chronic inflammation caused by obesity may trigger the development of cells that break down bone tissue, including the bone that holds teeth in place, finds a new research.
The study, completed in an animal model, found that excessive inflammation resulting from obesity raises the number of myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSC), a group of immune cells that increase during illness to regulate immune function.
MDSCs, which originate in the bone marrow, develop into a range of different cell types, including osteoclasts (a cell that breaks down bone tissue).
"This research promotes the concept that MDSC expansion during obesity to become osteoclasts during periodontitis is tied to increased alveolar bone destruction," said researcher K.H. Kwack from the University at Buffalo.
"Taken together, this data supports the view that obesity raises the risk of periodontal bone loss," Kwack added.
Bone loss is a major symptom of gum disease and may ultimately lead to tooth loss.
Also known as periodontal disease, gum disease affects more than 47 per cent of adults 30 years and older, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
For the study, published in the Journal of Dental Research, the team examined two groups of mice fed vastly different diets over 16 weeks -- one group, a low-fat diet that derived 10 per cent of energy from fat, the other group a high-fat diet that drew 45 per cent of energy from fat.
The investigation found that the high-fat diet group experienced obesity, more inflammation and a greater increase of MDSCs in the bone marrow and spleen compared to the low-fat diet group.
The high-fat diet group also developed a significantly larger number of osteoclasts and lost more alveolar bone (the bone that holds teeth in place).
Also, the expression of 27 genes tied to osteoclast formation were significantly elevated in the group fed a high-fat diet.
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COPD also known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disorders is a group of lung diseases that blocks airflow and makes it difficult to breathe. The most common of these diseases are emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Many people with COPD have both of these conditions. Emphysema slowly destroys air sacs in your lungs, which interferes with outward airflow. Bronchitis causes inflammation of the bronchi. COPD is a condition in which the disease worsens over time and it makes it difficult even to breathe. Asthma or Bronchitis is a very dangerous condition during pregnancy which causes fatigue, resulting in energy being diverted from the growing foetus.
Asthma can be hard to diagnose. To find out if you have asthma, your doctor takes your health history, does a physical exam and listens to your breathing.. You also may get a lung function test called spirometry. This is a test that checks how well your lungs work. During the test, you take a deep breath and exhale (blow) into a machine called a spirometer. This machine measures the amount of air you breathe in and out. It also measures how fast you can breathe. When you're pregnant, normal changes in your body can make you short of breath. This test can help your doctor know if shortness of breath is a common complication of pregnancy or if it's caused by asthma.
Treatment: Breathing Exercises with COPD
Pursed lip breathing
Pursed Lip Breathing
Pursed lip breathing has a range of benefits:
It's been shown to reduce how hard you have to work to breathe.
It helps release the air trapped in the lungs.
It promotes relaxation.
It reduces shortness of breath.
Practising this technique 4 to 5 times daily can help. Here's how to practice pursed-lip breathing:
While keeping your mouth closed, take a deep breath in through your nose, count to 2. Follow this pattern by repeating in your head "inhale, 1, 2." The breath doesn't have to be deep. A typical inhale will do. Put your lips together as if you're starting to whistle or blow out candles on a birthday cake. This is known as "pursing" your lips. While continuing to keep your lips pursed, slowly breathe out by counting to 4. Don't try to force the air out, but instead breathe out slowly through your mouth.
Tip: Pursed lip breathing is best for performing strenuous activities, such as climbing stairs.
Feeling short of breath can cause anxiety that makes you hold your breath. To prevent this from occurring, you can practice coordinated breathing using these two steps:
Inhale through your nose before beginning an exercise.
While pursuing your lips, breathe out through your mouth during the most strenuous part of the exercise. An example could be when curling upward on a bicep curl.
Tip: Coordinated breathing can be performed when you're exercising or feeling anxious.
Deep breathing prevents air from getting trapped in your lungs, which can cause you to feel short of breath. As a result, you can breathe in the more fresh air.
Here's how to practice deep breathing:
Sit or stand with your elbows slightly back. This allows your chest to expand more fully.
Inhale deeply through your nose.
Hold your breath as you count to 5.
Release the air via a slow, deep exhale, through your nose, until you feel your inhaled air has been released.
Exercise tip: It's best to do this exercise with other daily breathing exercises that can be performed for 10 minutes at a time, 3 to 4 times per day.
When you have COPD, mucus can build up more easily in your lungs. The huffing is a breathing exercise designed to help you cough up mucus effectively without making you feel too tired.
Here's how to practice the huffing:
Place yourself in a comfortable seated position. Inhale through your mouth, slightly deeper than you would when taking a normal breath.
Activate your stomach muscles to blow the air out in three even breaths while making the sounds "ha, ha, ha." Imagine you're blowing onto a mirror to cause it to steam.
Exercise tip: A huff should be less tiring than a traditional cough, and it can keep you from feeling worn out when coughing up mucus.
The diaphragm is an important muscle involved in the work of breathing.
People with COPD tend to rely more on the accessory muscles of the neck, shoulders, and back to breathe, rather than on the diaphragm. Diaphragmatic or abdominal breathing helps to retrain this muscle to work more effectively. Here's how to do it:
While sitting or lying down with your shoulders relaxed, put a hand on your chest and place the other hand on your stomach.
Take a breath in through your nose for 2 seconds, feeling your stomach move outward. You're doing the activity correctly if your stomach moves more than your chest.
Purse your lips and breathe out slowly through your mouth, pressing lightly on your stomach. This will enhance your diaphragm's ability to release air.
Repeat the exercise as you are able to.
Protect Your Lungs during Pregnancy
Since you're essentially breathing for two, take these steps to protect your lung health and your infant's health:
Tell Your Doctor About Any Shortness of Breath- There can be many reasons for shortness of breath in pregnancy. Pregnant women are no strangers to shortness of breath. Early pregnancy hormone surges and, later, the weight and bulk of your expanding womb restrict your breathing. If you're feeling short of breath, and you're worried about it for any reason, let your doctor know.
Ask for A Lung Function Test- While the parameters for the test might change as your pregnancy progresses, the simple, noninvasive lung test called spirometry can help your doctor check on your breathing.
Manage Asthma- Uncontrolled asthma during pregnancy puts both babies and you at risk. If you've been lax about your asthma medications, it's time to update your routine for pregnancy and then stick to it.
Avoid Cigarette Smoke- Don't smoke, ban smoking at home, and avoid all environments where you are exposed to cigarette smoke.(Suryalakshmi Paleri, Executive Physiotherapist, Cloudnine Group Of Hospitals, Bengaluru (Malleshwaram))
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Indians eat more fibre-rich plant based diet than people in the Western countries, reducing their risk of gut-related problems such as inflammatory bowel diseases like crohn's disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), colitis, and colon cancer, according to a research on Tuesday.
The international study, including researchers from the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER)- Bhopal, sought to understand the relationship between gut bacteria and inflammatory diseases.
"Increased intake of carbohydrate in the form of fibre such as wheat, vegetables, fruits and lentils, mostly found in Indian diet lowers the incidence of IBD, crohn's disease, colitis, colectral cancer, etc., than western diets that are generally meat-based," lead author Dr Vineet K. Sharma, Associate Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, IISER Bhopal, told IANS.
The human gut contains 300-500 types of bacteria that are necessary for our survival. These bacteria help in digestion, protect us from infections and even produce essential vitamins and neurochemicals.
Depending on the kind of bacteria that dominates the gut, human beings are generally classified into three "enterotypes" -- Prevotella, Bacteroides or Ruminococcus.
The study included 586 healthy samples from western and non-western populations including 200 samples from India, and 189 IBS samples from western populations.
The 200 gut samples from India were taken from people from several locations in -- Madhya Pradesh, Delhi-NCR, Rajasthan and Maharashtra, Bihar, and Kerala. It is also the largest gut metagenome study from India, as most such studies are largely based on the Western population.
The findings, published in the Nature's Biofilms and Microbiomes journal, showed that the Indian gut microbiome has the highest abundance of the Prevotella genus of bacteria, in particular, a species called Prevotella copri (P.copri).
This bacterium was also found to dominate the guts of other populations that consume a carbohydrate and fibre-rich diet, such as the Italian, Madagascarian, Peruvian, and Tanzanian. But, the gut microbiomes of people from Western countries like the US are dominated by Bacteroides.
Further, they found that P. copri is significant in the metabolism of complex polysaccharides and dietary fibres in non-western populations.
It is thus logical that this type of bacteria predominates the gut microbiome of the healthy Indian and non-western population that consumes a diet rich in plant-carbohydrates and fibres, Sharma explained.
"The proportion of P.copri in Indians is 30 per cent and can reach upto 60-70 per cent. Of the more than 1200 species of Prevotella, P.copri is the most abundant in Indian human gut," Sharma told IANS.
On the other hand, the guts of Western population were found to have other Prevotella species such as P. intermedia and P. nigrescens. These bacteria are usually found in the mouth, which points to a mouth-gut axis. These bacterial species are inflammatory and have high virulence and antibiotic resistance genes, making the Western population more susceptible to gut inflammatory diseases.
"Our insights would help in the development of new probiotics and prebiotics for different health-related conditions associated with the gut which is much needed for non-western populations," Sharma said.
Read More► Breast Cancer a Life Changing Reality
Recent medical advances have made breast cancer a highly manageable disease, especially when detected early, as in the case of stages 0-to-II cancers.
Timely treatment also minimises disruptions to the patient's daily routine and quality of life. Advancements in digitalisation have also greatly benefited women, as they can easily access information through YouTube on how to self-examine themselves and learn about breast anatomy or changes in breast structure that should be brought to the notice of specialists immediately.
Women above the age group of 20 -25 years should examine themselves monthly, and those above 40 years of age should go for mammography at regular intervals. With earlier breast cancer detection, the survival rate increases to 80 per cent (Stage 1 and stage 2), as compared to 56 per cent in Stage 3 and stage 4.
In India, however, early treatment is the exception rather than the norm. By the time most patients are diagnosed, they are already in stage III or IV of the disease, where treatment modalities are more complex. Additionally, the stigma of living with breast cancer can hamper the patients' quality of life in physical, psychological, and social terms.
Mental health counselling, family and institutional support, and new drugs and modalities can help women at all stages of breast cancer to improve life expectancy, health, and overall happiness, thus ticking all the boxes for improved life quality.
Stigma And Suffering
One in 28 Indian women is at risk of developing breast cancer during her lifetime. As per a CII report, the median age for diagnosis is 46 years, and nearly half of all diagnosed women are premenopausal, i.e., relatively young compared to breast cancer patients in Western nations.
The concern, though, is that at the time of diagnosis, around 70 per cent of Indian women are already in stage III or stage IV (known as metastatic breast cancer, or cancer that has spread to other parts of the body). While getting screened early may seem like an evident solution, however, low awareness and culturally ingrained stigmas still prevent many women from getting the timely help they need.
Due to cultural factors and social taboos, women do not get checked for breast cancer or share their symptoms with others, thereby leading to delayed diagnosis. Unfortunately, the pandemic has only amplified the burden of our healthcare system, magnifying these delays.
A QOL-Itative Approach
Focusing on patients' QOL means helping them thrive on the physical, emotional and social parameters by improving their all-around experience of the disease. New hope has also come in the form of targeted therapies that shrink or remove tumours by disabling specific proteins on cancerous cells to block their growth.
These therapies, which can often be taken orally, allow patients to bypass chemotherapy and related harsh side effects. Targeted therapies are proving more effective than chemotherapy in extending the survival rates of patients with stage III or IV cancers up to 5-8 years even if a patient is diagnosed at a metastatic stage.
The rise of non-invasive, chemo-free targeted therapies is opening a new front in the battle against advanced and metastatic breast cancer. By reducing or eliminating frequent hospital visits and the side-effects they earlier took for granted, it is possible to enhance patients' physical and psychological well-being and to help them live longer with dignity and independence.
Breast cancer doesn't mean the end of life. Today, treatment options for breast cancer have advanced, giving hope to patients even in advanced stages. Nowadays, due to government policies (Ayushman Bharat), every woman, regardless of her social strata, can avail of world-class cancer treatment in medical facilities across the country.
Even in advanced stages, families should not lose hope, as newer drugs such as molecular therapy treatment have proven effective for patients suffering from hormone-positive breast cancer, which is the most common form of cancer among Indian women. As many as 60 to 90 per cent of patients respond to these advanced treatments positively, enabling them to lead an enhanced quality of life. With such innovations, cancer can be viewed as a chronic disease that needs management.
Awareness-building and sensitisation are key. Educating women and girls in urban and rural contexts about breast cancer, the importance of regular self-monitoring, and de-stigmatising medical examinations and advanced treatment options, so that they can maximise their chances of identifying and beating the disease.
It would also help address psychosocial impacts like anxiety, depression, or fear by making therapy or psychiatry facilities accessible, affordable, and un-stigmatised for patients. This would also include teaching families and communities to support patients by accompanying them for treatments, helping with chores, spending time with them, and not letting them feel like a "burden".
The late American writer John Diamond said that cancer is "a word and not a sentence". However, for lakhs of women, breast cancer is a life-changing reality. While conventional treatments for breast cancer are constantly evolving and their efficacy is undeniable, life after a breast cancer diagnosis is about more than survival (extending the patient's life) or pain management (alleviating physical discomfort). What's required is a holistic approach towards improving the quality of the patient's life and this is being understood today. (Padma Shri Pankaj Shah, Medical Oncology Haematology, Zydus Hospital, Ahmedabad)
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