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Coping with dry season ailments

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Researchers validate natural ‘cures’ for conjunctivitis, chicken pox, measles, cold, cough, catarrh, others
The Harmattan is here again. Most parts of the country are already feeling the harsh weather condition. The Harmattan is a season in the West African subcontinent, which occurs between the end of November and the middle of March. It is characterised by dry and dusty northeasterly trade wind, of the same name, which blows from the Sahara Desert over West Africa into the Gulf of Guinea. It is cold in most places, but can be hot in some places, depending on circumstances.

It has been shown that during Harmattan, humidity drops to as low as 15 per cent, which can result in spontaneous nosebleeds for some people. Other health effects on humans may include conditions of the skin (scales, chicken pox and measles), eyes (conjunctivitis), and respiratory system (cold cough and catarrh), including aggravation of asthma.

The weather is associated with frequent headaches, cough, cold, sore throat, sneezing, wet eyes, catarrh and general nasal tract disorder causing great discomfort.

Several studies have shown that the dry, cold and dusty wind associated with the Harmattan weather can also lead to more complicated diseases like rheumatism, cardiac arrest, nose bleeding, arthritis and even death from hypothermia, because the respiratory system suffers greatly when the body is exposed to cold and dry weather. It can also triggers crises in sickle cell patients.

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Then there are of course the mild challenges like cracking of lips or breaking of lips, sole of the feet, conjunctivitis, dry skin and others. However, according to a recent study published in the journal Environ Health Insights, the cold dusty Harmattan is a season of anguish for cardiologists and patients.

Indeed, the Harmattan, the cold dusty season in Sub-Saharan Africa, is the season of greatest concern for hypertension and cardiovascular diseases, which have demonstrated a seasonal pattern. According to the study, Harmattan aggravates and worsens the outcome of blood pressure, stroke, heart failure and other cardiovascular diseases.

Garlic, Aloe vera, vinegar, others for conjunctivitis
Do you have ‘Apollo’, pink (red) eye or rather conjunctivitis? Nigerian researchers say a combination of personal hygiene of frequently washing of hands and face with diluted disinfectants and the use of local herbs such as garlic, Aloe vera, potato, lemon and apple cider vinegar could prevent and treat the Harmattan/dry-season associated ailment.

Nigerian researchers from the Department of Optometry Abia State University Uturu found garlic (Allium sativum) effective in treating conjunctivitis induced by Staphylococcus aureus.

The study was published in the Journal of the Nigerian Optometric Association (JNOA). The researchers led by E. B. Uzodike and I. C. Igwe noted: “This research work was aimed at determining the efficacy of garlic extract (GE) on Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) conjunctivitis. The experiment was carried out in vitro and in vivo. Double dilution method, minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) and zone of inhibition were used in the two investigations to determine this efficacy. GE efficacy was also compared to that of a known antibiotic- gentamycin. The data obtained were analyzed using tables, t-test and Chi square Yate’s correction for continuity. Results showed MIC to be 31.25 mg/ml. GE (stock) efficacy was comparable to gentamycin drug as both resolved S. aureus infection within eight and six days (respectively) of treatment while appreciable growth was recorded in the control group 15 days post infection. Statistical result using Chi-square showed that sensitivity of S. auerus and type of treatment was independent. T-test showed that sensitivity of S. aureus to GE was statistically significant (p>0.0.5).”

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The researchers added: “A wide range of microorganisms including bacteria, fungi, protozoa and viruses has been shown to have some degree of sensitivity to crushed garlic preparation. Garlic has also been found to produce inhibitory effects on gram- negative germs of the typhoid, paratyphoid enteritis groups. It indeed possesses outstanding germicidal properties and can keep amoebic dysentery at bay. There is no doubt that garlic preparations could still be in use in various communities to treat bacterial conjunctivitis. Hence, this study aimed at examining the efficacy of garlic preparation on S. aureus conjunctivitis.”

The researcher explained: “Allicin and Ajoene (an enzymatic product of allicin) block the enzymes that are necessary for these microorganisms’ metabolism. They inhibit the growth of more than microorganisms and no resistance has been found. Microorganisms are growing resistant to most antibiotics due to non- compliance and abuse by it users, hence, it is recommended that pharmaceutical companies formulate garlic extract into drugs (including ophthalmic) to help combat microbial infections.”

Another study published in the journal Pharmaceutical Biology demonstrated the activity of Aloe vera extract on human corneal cells. The researchers noted: “Ocular diseases are currently an important problem in modern societies. Patients suffer from various ophthalmologic ailments namely, conjunctivitis, dry eye, dacryocystitis or degenerative diseases. Therefore, there is a need to introduce new treatment methods, including medicinal plants usage. Aloe vera [Aloe barbadensis Miller (Liliaceae)] possesses wound-healing properties and shows immune-modulatory, anti-inflammatory or antioxidant activities.”

They concluded: “Aloe vera contains multiple pharmacologically active substances which are capable of modulating cellular phenotypes and functions. Aloe vera ethanol and ethyl acetate extracts may be used in eye drops to treat inflammations and other ailments of external parts of the eye such as the cornea.”

Another study published in Eksp Klin Farmakol examined the effect of potato (Solanum tuberosum) sprouts extract for the treatment of ophthalmic-herpes.

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The researchers wrote: “The efficacy, tolerability and safety of the extract of Solanum tuberosum sprouts (Panavir eye drops) have been studied on the model of ophthalmic disorder in rabbits caused by herpes simplex virus (HSV) type 1. It is established that Panavir applied via six instillations per day for a period of days has potent therapeutic efficacy and prevents the development of gross corneal opacity in rabbits. Instillation of Panavir eye drops does not cause irritation, toxic and allergic effects and are well tolerated by rabbits. The fastest and most pronounced effect of Panavir eye drops was observed in the treatment of epithelial keratitis, as well as for not prolonged persistence of HSV. The effectiveness of Panavir eye drops is comparable with that of the reference preparation OphthalmoferonR.”

Other measures recommended by ophthalmologists include:
*Wash your hands frequently
*Do not touch and rub your eyes
*Do not share pillows, towels or facemasks
*Wash away the discharge of your eyes
*Do not reuse anything that touches your face
*Avoid wearing eye makeup
*Wash your hands with soap and warm water
*Do not wear another person’s contact lenses
*Do not share eye makeup
*Doctors will advise that you stay home from work and kids from school

Other reported herbal and home remedies are:
Apple Cider Vinegar
Place one teaspoon of Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) and one glass of water. Mix them up and use a cotton ball soaked in the ACV mixture, and then wash your eye out with the solution. Use it once an hour while awake and do not worry, as it will most likely burn a little bit.

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Breast Milk
Doctors have found that present in the breast milk, both colostrums and mature milk is secretory IgA, an immune globulin that inhibits bacteria from sticking to mucous surfaces and so limits bacterial colonization in the eye.

Working out helps fight Harmattan colds
Recent study suggests that regular exercises will not only prevent premature death but also fight off infections including the cold virus. The researchers, however, said that doing lots of exercise while overweight does not prevent early death.

According to a timely new study, working out could help us fight off colds and other infections. The study, published in Scientific Reports, which found that regular exercise strengthens the body’s immune system in part by repeatedly stressing it, was conducted in animals. But the results most likely apply to people, the researchers say, and could offer further incentive for us to remain physically active this winter.

Neem tops list of herbs for treating chicken pox
A decoction from the leaves of Neem tops the list of herbal remedies for Chicken pox and other skin diseases. Other herbal remedies include Allium cepa (onion), Allium sativum (garlic), rhizomes of Curcuma longa (turmeric), and Aloe vera. Botanically called Azadirachta indica, Neem also popularly known as Dogonyaro in Nigeria belongs to the Meliceae family. The common tree tops the list of plants that have been scientifically verified to effectively treat chicken pox.

Chicken pox is a highly contagious, yet common disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus. It develops into an itchy rash with an outbreak of blisters that occurs on the scalp, face and torso. It is usually a mild illness, which occurs in children but can also cause serious complications in teenagers, adults, pregnant women, newborns and people with weak immune systems. Symptoms may appear between 10 and 21 days of the time of exposure to the virus.

Several studies have shown that chicken pox is common in individuals who are not immune, and have not been vaccinated, can acquire chickenpox easily by touching an infected person, particularly in the region of any open blisters.

Studies suggest that chickenpox infections can be spread by indirect contact.

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Touching anything that has been touched by someone who is infected by the chickenpox virus, and in the contagious stages of the disease, can cause a chickenpox infection. Documented chicken pox symptoms include: nausea (feeling sick); a high temperature (fever) of 38 degree Celsius (C)/(100.4F) or over aching, painful muscles; headache; generally feeling unwell; and loss of appetite.

Meanwhile, until now, Neem extracts have been shown to possess anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, potent antiviral and anti-cancerous properties.

Neem has been found to be an effective antiseptic for the treatment of viral infection including small pox. Indian researchers in a study published in Journal of Biological Sciences noted that Neem extracts have been shown to possess potent antiviral properties against different viruses including herpes simplex virus type-1 infection and chicken pox. According to a new study published in the International Journal of Clinical Nutrition (IJCN), there are certain compounds in Neem that demonstrate a unique ability to surround viruses, which prevents them from causing infection.

The researchers wrote: “So depend upon the nature or kind microbes minimum amount required to stop the growth. Neem also inhibits viral multiplication by interacting with the surface of the cells to prevent the cell from becoming infected by the virus. Neem has been observed to be effective against a number of viral pathogens in various clinical studies demonstrating it contains unique properties to inhibit viral disease. Neem is one of just a few known antiviral agents.

“Chickenpox, shingles, herpes, and hepatitis are viral conditions, which have been successfully treated, in clinical studies by Neem’s therapeutic compounds. The uncomfortable symptoms of colds and flu’s can be relieved during seasonal changes by the regular consumption of Neem Leaf capsules, extract, or tea.”

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