Tag Archives: Ailments

What are the causes and treatment for chickenpox?

Otherwise known as varicella, chickenpox is a viral infection that results in itchy, blister-like rashes on body. It is a highly contagious disease, especially to people who haven’t had the disease before nor been vaccinated against it. It is caused by the exposure to the virus, varicella zoster. The term chickenpox is believed to have been used for the first time in 1658. The disease is found to affect adults more severely than children. The winter and spring seasons are the periods it occurs mostly. The people who had been affected with the disease once and healed are unlikely to get it for a second time.
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The symptoms of chickenpox take from ten to twenty days to manifest themselves. The early symptoms include lack of appetite, nausea and aches. The rashes commonly start to appear on face, and spread to the rest of the body parts. They can be accompanied by other symptoms, including fever. The symptoms normally last from five to ten days. The rashes can be very itchy and painful.
Chickenpox is an airborne disease. It mainly spreads through the coughs and sneezes of an infected person. It can also spread through the contact with the blisters. The disease can be diagnosed by the symptoms but in complicated cases, the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing of the blister fluids is employed.
Chickenpox rarely turns fatal, and usually dissipates in a few weeks. The rashes may last for a month or more. The major health risk is when the disease leads to more severe ones, like pneumonia, bronchitis and hepatitis. Another problem is the chance of shingles, which is caused by the varicella virus that stays dormant for a very long time in the body of infected person. The pregnant women also have high risk when affected by the disease.
There are not many treatments for chickenpox. The application of calamine lotion is usually recommended for those infected, to help with itching on the blisters. The fever can be regulated by the consumption of paracetamol. The patients are recommended not to scratch on the rashes or wear gloves, to avoid secondary infections. Sometimes, antiviral drugs are also recommended, mostly to avoid the multiplication of the virus.
Chickenpox is found in all parts of the world. Immunization has brought down the number of cases of disease significantly over the years. The varicella vaccination is implemented for children in many countries to prevent the disease.

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Why does scratching an itch make it worse?

The first instinct of most of us when it feels itching is to scratch it immediately. It is almost a reflex action upon which we don’t think twice. We scratch with every bit of insistence and it is one of the sweetest feelings in the world; until only when it gets worse. The itch persists and we scratch it again with more urgency, only to make it worse, sometimes even to the point of bleeding. The cycle continues and without a permanent relief for the person.
It is common knowledge that the itch becomes worse when we scratch on it, despite the momentary respite. What is the reason behind it? The recent studies shed a light on it.
The itching can be caused by a number of things, including allergic conditions and skin problems like eczema. Various diseases like Cancer are also accompanied by itching which sometime would go on to persist for life even after the disease is cured. A permanent itchy skin is one of the worst things to suffer and seriously affects the rhythm of daily life.
The temporary relief we feel when we scratch on the itch is because of the mild sensation of pain produced by it. When we scratch on the itch, the pain from it masks the itching sensation. When the neurons in spinal cord sends pain signals to the brain, it would respond by producing a hormone called Serotonin, which is known as ‘happy hormone’. Serotonin is a vital component in our body, which plays a seminal role in growth, bone metabolism and mood regulation.
The brain releases serotonin to control the pain since it does not want the pain to inhibit the body. But serotonin also activates the certain brain cells that intensify the itching sensation. These cells are called GRPR neurons. So, the every time we scratch, more serotonin is produced and it in turn further intensifies the itching sensation.
The fact was revealed in a study by the team of scientists from Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis, headed by Zhou-Feng Chen. They carried out some experiments in mice, half of which were genetically modified so that they lacked the genes for serotonin production. When the mice were injected with itch-inducing substance, the genetically modified ones showed fewer propensities for scratching than the normal ones. When they were injected with serotonin again, they showed same scratching tendency as the normal ones.
The study proves that serotonin plays a major part in the itch cycle. Suppression of serotonin or the receptors through which the GRPR neurons communicate with the hormone are the only ways to solve this problem. However, both will impact the body system adversely and are not ideal.

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What are the best ways to keep mosquito bites from itching?

Mosquito bites are very common and most people have experienced it some time, even if your place is not filled with them. A number of those little bloodsuckers are carriers of several diseases, like dengue and malaria. Many of you are perhaps unaware that only female mosquitoes drink blood and they don’t do it for nourishment but to produce eggs. Their nourishment comes from plant nectar. Another fact is that the mosquitoes are not really biting us. In fact, they are piercing us. Despite the momentary pain, what drives us crazy is the itching sensation that persists for some time. We scratch on it, and it only gets intense until we can’t tolerate it anymore.
What is the reason behind the itching that accompanies the mosquito bite? The bite is actually the piercing of skin by its proboscis, a sharp part of mouth that allows it to drink fluids. When it starts to drink the blood, it releases its saliva to the blood. The mosquito saliva contains an anti-coagulant substance that allows it to drink the blood more easily.
At the presence of this foreign substance, your immune system gets activated. It results in the release of Histamine, a nitrogen compound that helps the blood cells to fight foreign substances. The histamine reaches the spot where the mosquito had bitten, causing the blood vessels there to swell up. This is the reason behind the formation of a red bump there, called wheal. The itching sensation that accompanies it is the result of action by the nervous system. When the blood vessel expands, the nerves there are disturbed by it. It is the disturbance that is experienced as the itching sensation.
Now, the question is how to stop the red bump from itching. While there are many commercial products for it, it isn’t really necessary to stock them all in the cupboards. As with any other problem, the solution is there in nature itself. These are a few home remedies that can help you.
  1. Honey is a natural antibiotic. A dab of honey can nicely do the trick and alleviate the itch in a small time.
  2. A small amount of baking soda, made into a paste with water, can be applied to the area and the itching will fade away in no time.
  3. What about the toothpaste and the soap! A little bit of them applied directly on the area can soothe the swell and itching for a long time.
  4. Hold a piece of cotton soaked with apple cider vinegar on the wound for some time and the itch will disappear soon. It is due to the acidic property of the vinegar.
  5. Citric acid has some healing properties. Dabbing the open side of a lemon on the wound can alleviate the itch in some time.
  6. You can also try Aspirin and alcohol as well. Both of them cool the affected area and sooth the itching sensation. Those who are allergic to the substances are advised to refrain from this method.
  7. Dabbing a piece of onion on the wound also helps to alleviate the itch on the bump.
  8. Applying an ice cube is a good idea. It will soothe the itch for a while.
  9. Cut a potato and dab the open side on the bite. It will diminish the pain soon.
  10. Your own saliva can be applied if other remedies don’t help. This works out for many people.

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What is viral fever?

Viral fever is one of the most common ailments in the world. The term viral fever actually refers to a large group of conditions where viral infections cause rise in body temperature. In medical terms, a fever caused as a result of viral infection is a viral fever. Even though most of the infections have common symptoms, they affect specific organs. The course and duration of the infections vary and don’t follow any set pattern. They are often accompanied by body ache, running nose, cough, shivering, skin rash and irritability. One may or may not have all of these problems according to the type of infection. Viral infections can affect any person, regardless age and gender. However, due to low immunity, children and old people are more susceptible to it. It is seen worldwide and although they only require symptomatic treatments, some are highly contagious. Some of them are highly dangerous, and can lead up to even death, if treatment hadn’t been given in the early stages of the infection.
Most of the viral infections are spread by the consumption of contaminated food or water, or by direct contact. Once in the body, the infection slowly spread around the body and enters into the blood stream of lymph channels. A number of the viral infections can also be transmitted through sex or by direct inoculation into blood. The duration of the primary infection may vary, from days to several weeks. The manifestation of disease is generally the consequence of the virus multiplying rapidly at a specific part of the body.
Once the virus enters the body, there is an incubation period during which it increases in numbers to a level high enough to cause the infection. This is followed by general body ache and fatigue and slow rise in body temperature. The consequent fever may be low grade or high grade. Running nose, nasal congestion, headache, inflammation of throat, redness of eyes, cough and pain at joints are common conditions. The lymph glands may also swell up during the course. The body pains and cough may persist for days, longer than the other problems.
Though these are not much dangerous, sometimes, things may lead to more complicated conditions like pneumonia, diarrhea and arthritis. The viral fever can be treated with medications though it is not necessary all time. Good rest and appropriate food during the phase is also important. Viruses have short lifespan and the fever naturally dissipates most of the occasions. Personal hygiene is important in the prevention of viral infections. Once a person is infected with a virus, he or she can never be infected with that particular virus again, since the body makes antibodies to fight them.

Additional reading:
Viral Fever
Fever (Wikipedia)

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What causes some people to faint all of a sudden?

The symptoms are frightening: A rapid heartbeat, accelerated breathing, draining of color from face, nausea, sweating and – ultimately – collapse. During the first hazy moments of awakening, the victim is told that he fainted. What causes this unsettling experience?
In order to function properly the body’s countless systems must at all times be nourished with oxygen-rich blood. If the heart is denied it, its beat grows unsteady. If the stomach is denied it, consciousness is lost. During a normal faint, these and other symptoms are all manifested as blood supplies suddenly drop in the body’s vital regions. Although any number of conditions can trigger this drastic circulatory change, overheating is one of the most common ones. Prolonged standing in the Sun, for example, causes blood vessels to slowly widen. This allows blood to pool in the lower extremities while withholding an adequate supply from the brain. If the denial continues long enough, unconsciousness will result. Psychological stress can also bring about a swoon. In the face of surprise or danger, the heart may begin beating rapidly but inefficiently while blood pressure suddenly plummets. Again, the result could be the lowered cerebral blood flow and rapid collapse.
An unusual type of fainting called carotid sinus syncope (or the ‘tight-collar syndrome’) can strike with no preliminary symptoms whatever. Sensitive nerve endings in the neck sometimes respond to even slight stimulation by directing blood vessels to widen. Lowered circulatory pressure and fainting thus can result from nothing more than shaving or wearing a shirt with a snug collar.
After recovering from a faint, a victim occasionally experiences a brief period of disorientation, a condition that lasts only until the brain regains its normal blood flow. Ordinarily, this takes very little time – and it’s a good thing, too. If the brain were to be deprived of oxygen for more than three minutes, irreversible damage would occur as brain cells expire quickly. But seldom are the consequences grave. More often than not, fainting is no more than a brief malfunction of a flustered and oxygen-starved brain.

Additional reading:
Syncope (medicine) (Wikipedia)

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What is tetanus? What causes it?

Tetanus is usually known as ‘lockjaw’ because there may be difficulty in opening the mouth, although this is simply part of a spasm of all the muscles of the body.

Caused by bacterium, clostridium tetani, tetanus leads to rigidity and involuntary muscle spasms that become progressively more violent and uncontrolled. The symptoms often arise first in the jaw, thus giving the disease its sobriquet.

Tetanus bacteria spores are prevalent in topsoil, so any open wound is susceptible to infection. Because clostridium tetani is anaerobic – it can live only in an environment that lacks oxygen – wounds with poor blood circulation are the most vulnerable. Thus, in an unfavorable medium, the hardy spores ensure the bacteria’s survival for months or years.

When the bacteria find an anaerobic region of injured tissue, they incubate and then begin to reproduce and secrete tetanospasmin, one of the deadliest toxins known. Tetanospasmin travels from the injury site, perhaps via nearby nerves or the bloodstream, to neurons in the spinal cord. There the toxin is thought to back the release of certain neurotransmitters, causing muscle spasms all over the body. Eventually, even inconsequential noises or droughts can trigger the convulsions, which arch the body so that only the victim’s head and feet touch an underlying surface. (See picture above.)

The severity of tetanus can be lessened by a quick dose of antitoxin that neutralizes any tetanospasmin being released. Sedatives, muscle relaxants and antibiotics are also prescribed.

Tetanus can be prevented, however, by immunization with tetanus toxoid, toxin that has been chemically inactivated so that it won’t harm the nervous system but will cause antibody formation in the recipient’s bloodstream. The treatment takes weeks or months to become effective and is maintained by ‘booster’ injections every 10 years, unless would in the interim requires care.

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Why does sore throat look red?

Almost every corner of our body is liable to host a bacterial infection, and tissue at the back of the throat is no exception. The redness and pain we associate with a sore throat are symptoms of inflammation that naturally accompany any inflation. And though the redness may look horrid, it’s a signal that the body has been mobilized to oust the invaders.

When human tissue is infected, it responds by becoming inflamed, a condition marked by pain, redness, swelling, heat and loss of function. The specific causes of pain at the infected site – whether in the throat or elsewhere – remains something of a mystery. It is thought that various substances are produced or released locally that stimulate nerves to send a pain signal to the brain. The reddening represents an enhanced blood flow at the site that carries agents from the immune system to fight the infection.

Although the inflammation may produce temporary discomfort, it is actually beneficial. Studies have shown that, though they relieve unpleasant symptoms, anti-inflammatory medicines reduce resistance to dangerous illness.

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Why do we lose the sense of smell when we have a cold?

The sense of smell depends upon the scented things in the air reaching the lining of our nose, especially certain small parts of the lining of the nose. When we have a cold, this lining, or mucous membrane, of the nose gets swollen, and produces a much greater amount of mucus than usual, as we all can tell by the number of handkerchiefs we have to use in a day. The chief reason why we can not smell so well when we have a cold is that this mucus constantly pouring out of the lining of the nose and running over it, prevents the scent of things getting to the sensitive part of the nose, and washes away any solid scented particles that there may be in the air. Also, it may very likely be that the poisons produced by the microbes that cause a cold, poison the living cells of the mucous membrane, and also poison the tiny ends of the nerves of smell that run to it, so that even if scented air does reach the sensitive part of the mucous membrane, they can not be felt.

This applies alike to scents coming in from outside and also to the scents of food, which pass up at the back of the roof of the mouth into the nose, and which, if we have not got a cold, help to give our food half its flavor.

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Why does the tongue burn after eating chili? What is the quick remedy for it?

Human beings’ tongue has numerous sensory cells in as many minute depressions which have property of identifying tastes. They are known as taste buds. (See microscopic photo in the left.) Some taste buds identify sweet taste whereas some recognize bitter taste. Similarly, there are separate taste buds for identification of peppery hot and astringent tastes. We experience specific taste when molecules of a substance exactly fit in taste buds having property of that taste. If abundant taste buds have identified hot peppery taste then the substance eaten tastes very hot. Red or green chilly contains a natural compound named capsaicin. The size of molecules of capsaicin exactly fits in the taste buds which recognize hot taste. Sharp hot sensation on the tongue as the molecules of capsaicin simultaneously settle on the taste buds makes one noisily suck air

Just like an already switched on electrical appliance starts whirring as soon as its plug is inserted in the socket the brain gets sharp hot signal as the molecules of capsaicin fit in the taste buds so we find taste of chilly ‘hot’! Of course, there are some varieties of chilly which contain much less capsaicin compound so they do not taste very hot.

Hot sting of chilly on the tongue can be removed by holding some milk in the mouth. A protein named casein contained in milk ejects capsaicin from the taste buds and tries to occupy them. But the molecules of casein do not exactly fit in those taste buds. However, having ejected capsaicin they certainly give relief from the burning hot sensation.

FYI: Parrots almost do not have taste buds on their tongue which recognize hot taste of capsaicin.

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How does gargling with salt water help to cure sore throat?

Soreness of throat is generally caused due to bacterial infection. Bacteria are very stubborn microbes which can easily resist an ordinary substance like salt. But it is the elementary principle of osmosis which puts their survival on stake.

Stated briefly the principle is that if a porous partition separates dilute and concentrated solutions then the dilute solution permeates through the porous partition into the concentrated solution. This process does not stop till the concentration of both the solutions is equal. Salt water is more concentrated than the water in bacteria. Once such water comes in contact with the bacteria, they gradually lose their body fluid. They can not remain active after dehydration and wither and die before long.

Answer to the question as to whether salt water fish can remain alive in fresh water and fresh water fish can remain alive in salt water is contained in the above explanation. The nature has covered bodies of both kinds of fish with skin which allows only one way traffic of osmosis. Dilute body fluid of sea water fish does not ooze out to mix with the concentrated fluid, i.e. sea water. So the sea water fish do not dehydrate and wither away like bacteria. Similarly the skin of fresh water fish does not allow dilute river water to seep into its body. The skins of both fish permit only one way passage.

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