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Why is Jaundice more common in summer and how can we prevent it?

In jaundice, the skin and whites of the eyes look yellow. © Shutterstock

Jaundice is a common summer disease mainly caused due to the consumption of contaminated water. Here's how you can stay protected against it this season.

Jaundice is one of the diseases that are more common in summers. It is a condition in which the skin, sclera (whites of the eyes) and mucous membranes turn yellow. The yellow colour is because of the high levels of bilirubin, a waste material found in the bloodstream.

Normally, jaundice is a sign of other underlying conditions associated with the liver, gallbladder, or pancreas. It may result from an inflamed liver, obstructed bile duct or other underlying conditions that cause overproduction of bilirubin or prevent the liver from getting rid of it. When there is too much bilirubin, it can leak into the surrounding tissues and cause the yellow colour in the skin and eyes.

Infections of the liver by viruses (hepatitis A, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, hepatitis D, and hepatitis E) can also cause jaundice. Of these, hepatitis A and hepatitis E viruses are commonly acquired through consumption of contaminated water. These viruses are transmitted by the faeces-oral route. You may get them if you ingest food or water contaminated with the faeces of an infected person. The viral infection may impair the ability of the liver to secrete bilirubin, and lead to jaundice. Waterborne jaundice is commonly called as acute viral hepatitis.

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Why Jaundice cases rise in summers?

This is due to more chances for intake of contaminated water in summers. Irregular water supply increases the chances for contamination, which further increases the risk of jaundice. Sewage contamination of drinking water is believed to be the main cause of widespread prevalence of jaundice cases during summer. Drinking stream water directly without purification, poor personal hygiene of food vendors are other possible causes of this disease.

If the jaundice is caused by infection, you may experience symptoms and signs like:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Abdominal pain
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Change in skin colour
  • Dark-coloured urine and/or clay-coloured stool.

How to keep jaundice at bay this summer

Good hygiene, drinking clean water and avoiding contaminated foods are the best ways to avoid infective jaundice in summer. Below are some tips to prevent jaundice and other water-borne diseases:

  • Make sure the water you are drinking is hygienic. Drink only filtered/boiled water.
  • Store water in a clean container. Wash water jars/containers daily.
  • Always wash your hands with soap and water after using washroom or changing your child's diaper
  • You should also wash your hands before and after preparing food
  • Wash food thoroughly before cooking.
  • Cook food properly as these viruses are heat prone and get killed easily with boiling.
  • Avoid consumption of unhygienic foods and beverages.
  • Try to avoid street foods as much as possible and eat home cooked foods.
  • Always cover foods/beverages while storing.
  • Ensure that the pipes and tanks that supply water to your house are properly maintained and cleaned.
  • Discard or flush any stool in the toilet using detergent and hot water.
  • While travelling, drink only bottled water and avoid eating uncooked food.
  • If you're suffering from any water-borne diseases, don't go to work until fully recovered to avoid spreading.

Since jaundice is related to liver function, it is essential that you maintain the health of this vital organ. You can do so by eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and limiting alcohol.

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