Tuberculosis – Symptoms & Prevention Tips
Tuberculosis is one of India’s major public health problems. Every year, 2-3 million people are infected by this disease. However the good news is that many of these infections can be prevented.
Tuberculosis (TB) is caused by bacteria that spreads from person to person through airborne particles, via coughs and sneezes. TB is usually found in the lungs. Most people who are exposed to TB never develop the symptoms because the bacteria can live in an inactive form in the body (latent TB). The immune system usually prevents a person from becoming sick. But if the immune system weakens, such as in people with HIV or elderly people, the bacteria can become active. In their active state, the bacteria kill the tissue in the organs that they infect. Active TB disease can be serious if left untreated.
Symptoms develop gradually, it may take many weeks before you notice them:
- Cough with thick, cloudy and sometimes bloody sputum for more than 2 weeks
- Fever, chills and night sweats
- Fatigue and weakness
- Loss of appetite and unexplained weight loss
- Shortness of breath and chest pain
Who is at Risk
Anybody can be infected, but those at high risk for developing active TB include:
- People who are sick with other diseases like diabetes and have a weakened immune system
- People who have had TB earlier
- Babies and young children
- People who take injectible illegal drugs
- Elderly people
Tips to Avoid Getting Sick
- Practice good hygiene. Wash your hands regularly to avoid the spread of bacteria and virus.
- Use a tissue or a handkerchief. Don’t cover your mouth with your hand when sneezing or coughing. Germs and viruses cling to bare hands when muffling coughs and sneezes, and often result in passing along the germs to others.
- A warm salt water gargle can temporarily relieve a sore or scratchy throat.
- Drink warm milk. Milk does not cause mucus build-up. In fact, the protein, calories and fat in the milk make you strong.
- Decaffeinated tea or warm beverages can be soothing and can help break up the mucus.
- Getting enough sleep is vital for a healthy immune system. Taking rest when you first come down with a cold helps your body direct its energy toward the immune battle.
- Ventilate the room. TB bacteria spread easily in small closed rooms where the air doesn’t move. If it’s not too cold outside, open the windows and use a fan to blow the indoor air outside.
- If you have a cough which lasts for more than a week, wear a surgical mask when you’re outside and around people.