Five successive days of subnormal minimum temperature after a relatively warm spell has triggered a spurt in ailments.
Doctors from across the city have reported long queues of patients complaining of fever, sore throat and congestion as the city experienced a sharp dip in temperature over the past week.
The minimum temperature dropped below normal in the current spell on January 23. Sunday recorded a minimum temperature of 11.5 degrees Celsius, four notches below normal, and a maximum temperature of 23.7, three degrees below normal.
A week before, the minimum and maximum had been 17.4 and 30.
“The dip in temperature has affected a lot of people in the city,” said critical care expert Subrata Maitra. “In the past few days we have noticed a spurt in the number of people suffering from common cold and cough, fever, sore throat and respiratory tract infections.”
Asok Sengupta, a pulmonologist at Apollo Gleneagles Hospitals, said cases of infections in the upper and lower respiratory tracts and acute tracheo-bronchitis were on the rise. “In the last couple of days, more than 50 per cent of the patients getting admitted to the hospital with chest ailments are suffering from pneumonia,” he said.
The fluctuations in temperature and humidity, Sengupta pointed out, are making people vulnerable to respiratory tract infections. People with pre-existing conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, asthma and renal failure, are particularly vulnerable to viral attacks.
Cases of throat infections, too, are on the rise. “People are suffering from tonsil and pharynx infections. They are complaining of sore throat and cough, which are often followed by fever,” said Arunabha Sengupta, the head of the ENT department at SSKM Hospital.
“Gargling with lukewarm water helps keep such symptoms under check,” the doctor added.
Children are extremely vulnerable to the change in weather, warned paediatricians. “The incidence of pneumonia, along with viral fever, has gone up by more than 50 per cent in the past two-three days,” said Apurba Ghosh, the director of the Institute of Child Health.
Doctors advised parents against wrapping children with too many warm clothes, as that could lead to excessive sweating and increase their vulnerability to cold.
The weatherman attributed the cold spell to the absence of western disturbance or any other weather formation that could keep the Celsius in check.
“There is no western disturbance to block the cold North Wind. Nor is there any other weather system that can result in accumulation of moisture and prevent any drastic drop in the mercury,” said an official at India Meteorological Department.
There could, however, be a rise in the temperature later this week. “Temperatures can rise after 48 hours as a western disturbance is supposed to get in the way of the North Wind,” pointed out a Met official.
While the city experienced a minimum temperature four degrees below normal, some parts of Gangetic Bengal experienced cold wave-like conditions, along with a few places in Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand on Sunday.