Columbia Asia Hospital emphasizes in drinking clean water on this World Water Day.

World Water Day is observed every year on March 22 to focus on the importance of access to clean and fresh water, sanitation, and hygiene, which are huge challenges in developing nations in particular.

In 2010, theUnited Nations’ General Assembly recognized water and sanitation as humanrights. It is not just about access to water, but it is also about the qualityof water people drink. There are more than 663 million people around the worldwho live without supply of safe water near their homes; several people have toqueue up for hours or travel long distances to access something so basic aswater. 

The need forclean drinking water cannot be overemphasized, as contaminated water (in waterbodies) can lead to a whole host of ailments such as gastrointestinalinfection, cholera, and dysentery, which can cause life-threatening forms ofdiarrhea. 

The globalstatistics on diarrhea are alarming and disconcerting. The disease causes 4percent of all deaths and 5 per of health loss to disability, worldwide (WHOstatistics). It is said to be the second major cause of death among childrenunder the age of five. Across the world, 2,195 children die due to this diseaseevery day; this is more than the deaths due to diseases like AIDS, malaria andmeasles put together. Diarrhea is responsible for 1 out of 9 child deathsworldwide. 

In India,about 1.2 lakh children under the age of five die due to this disease everyyear. This means there are 328 diarrhea-related deaths every day and 13 everyhour! (Source: Ministry of Health). 

Dr. AmitaBhandarkar, Senior Consultant - Internal Medicine and Diabetology,Columbia Asia Hospital Sarjapur Road speaks on the causes of diarrhea. 

The root ofthe problem is gastrointestinal infection, which leads to the death of 2.2 millionpeople every year across the world, especially in the developing nations.

Diarrhealinfection is caused due to bacteria, virus, protozoa and other parasiticorganisms (mainly E. coli, salmonella, hepatitis and rotavirus) thatare spread from one person to another. The main reasons for diarrhoea arecontaminated water, unclean food, malnutrition, improper sanitation, poorhygiene, and absence of immunization.

Inunder-developed and developing countries, water is contaminated with humanfaeces from sewage, septic tanks and toilets. Animal faeces too spreaddiarrhea-causing microbes. Fish and seafood from polluted water also cancontribute to diarrhea. 

Howdiarrhea affects people

A personsuffering from diarrhea passes loose watery stools (in cholera) very frequently(more than three times a day). In the case of dysentery, stools are passed withblood. Diarrhea can last for a few days or even several weeks (if it ispersistent). 

Chronic andlong-term diarrhea that lasts over three weeks is dangerous and is associatedwith bowel disorders. Severe diarrhea is life-threatening, especially amonginfants, young children and people with low nutrition and weakened immunity. 

Diarrhea isalso related to infections like malaria and measles. 

Symptoms 

People with diarrhea experience nausea, dehydration,fatigue, fever, abdominal bloating, cramps in the abdomen, pain in the rectum,and the urge to go to the toilet frequently. Blood or pus in the stool, liquidystools and dark stools are also signs of trouble. In children, watch out forthese symptoms: high fever, irritability, loss of skin elasticity, lack ofsaliva, sunken eyes, abdomen and cheeks.

Diagnosisand treatment

If the abovesymptoms are noticed, consult a healthcare provider or doctor immediately.Stool culture will help determine the bacteria or other organisms that arecausing the infection. A blood test is done to ascertain the diseases that arenot present in the body. A sigmoidoscopy investigates the inside of the lowerpart of the colon and rectum, while a colonoscopy will assess the entire colon.

Diarrhea istreated by replacing the fluids and electrolytes lost due to excessive passageof water in the stool. This is done by drinking oral rehydration fluids andsalt solutions, water, clear soups and diluted juices. This will relieve thesymptoms.

Diarrhea isusually allowed to run its course and resolve on its own; otherwise, it willlead to the body retaining the toxins that have to be ejected.

In case ofsevere dehydration, intravenous fluids may be given. Antibiotics are opted foronly in case of moderate to severe diarrhea. 

Ways toprevent diarrhea

·  Drinksafe, clean, boiled water.

·  Useof good water filters.

·  Practicegood sanitation and personal hygiene.

·  Washhands often with soap and clean water, before and after eating, after using thebathroom, after changing diapers, after playing with pets, and after touchingcurrency notes and coins.

·  Donot tap water even for brushing.

·  Avoidraw and exotic fish and meat.

·  Eatmore of cooked vegetables and fruits that can be peeled.

·  Washvegetables and fruits thoroughly in clean water.

·  Donot eat raw/undercooked meat and seafood.

·  Avoidnon-pasteurized dairy products.

·  Donot eat uncovered food from the street.

·  Becareful while using public toilets and restrooms. 

Above all,awareness and health education about diarrhea and how it spreads will go a longway in preventing this dreadful disease. This calls for governmentalintervention, community support, and personal will to follow simple yetessential hygiene practices.


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