Science, Art, Litt, Science based Art & Science Communication

Q: Dr. Krishna, is it true that children who 're raised  in dust and dirty conditions will be more immune to diseases than children   who 're brought up in a clean environment? If this is true then what is the use of being clean?

Krishna: Several people asked me this Q.  Yes, if you are exposed to more microbes in a dirty environment you develop immunity to them. Children develop less allergies.

But things are not that simple and rosy. It is a complex web and scary too at times.

To develop immunity, first a child will have to be exposed to micro-organisms. When the number of a particular species of a micro-organism a child is exposed to is more than the immune system can cope - this usually happens in very dirty conditions - the child develops various diseases and health conditions which make the child very weak and in severe cases if medical help is not available, the child can even die. That is more tragic. A disease-survived weak child gets more deadly diseases. This is a vicious cycle.

Dirty conditions also invite more disease carrying vectors like flies, mosquitoes, fruit-flies etc.

Moreover, very small children have less developed immune systems which cannot fight diseases. Once they develop dangerous diseases, death becomes inevitable.

Then do you think dirty conditions are good? No!

The best solution is being moderately clean and getting vaccinated. With vaccination you and your child will get exposed to killed or weakened microbes that cannot cause disease but at the same time you develop immunity to the microbe. Moderate cleaning keeps away most disease causing vectors and little bit exposure to pathogens and allergens make you immune to most diseases. 

Q: Is it true that bathing in a tub makes you more dirty? 

Krishna:  If you are very dirty and when several people use the same tub for bathing, the answer is an emphatic yes. It is like bathing in your own dirt if you are very dirty. The dirt just comes off in the water and you are sitting in dirty water.

Moreover, various orifices of your body carry lots of microbes which can enter the water and coat you with microbial films. 

Soaps you use can remove some of the microbes but with lots of the minute creatures all over the place you cannot avoid getting more vulnerable.  Microbes are getting more and more resistant these days. Even if you use soaps and disinfectants, they might not work fully. Bleach and alcohol can work but you cannot bathe in those solutions.

If you enter a bath tub and stay there for some time, you will have to take a shower again to clean yourself. Period.

Q: Do we get water borne diseases when we bathe in rivers?

Krishna: If the water is crystal clear, you can bathe in rivers. Earlier people used to bathe in them without getting affected much.

But almost all the rivers are polluted now. Bathing in the dirty water can now get you - diarrhea, cholera, typhoid, giardiasis  (an infection in your small intestine caused by a microscopic parasite called Giardia lamblia), amoebiasis, cryptosporidiosis, dysentery, botulism, E. coli infection , salmonellosis, vibrio illness ( microbes enter through wounds and cause infection), M. marinum infection, swimmer's ear (infection of ear), hepatitis, acute gastrointestinal illness [AGI], polio, nematode and helminth infestations and several other diseases and health conditions.  I have seen people taking water into their mouths while swimming in water. Most of them don't even wear protective gear to protect their eyes, nose and ears. If you have any cuts or wounds you should never enter dirty water bodies. 

Yes, it is better to not to bathe in rivers now. Use only treated (for removal of contamination) or hot water to clean yourself.

Put a drop of untreated water under the microscope and you will see  microbes similar to these .... 


                                 ( 'Under the Microscope' art work by Dr. Krishna Kumari Challa 

                                                Source: )

Q: Should new born babies be bathed immediately after birth?

Krishna: These are WHO's recommendations (1): 

WHO emphasizes key elements of newborn care including delayed bathing, skin-to-skin contact and immunization. WHO says bathing should be delayed until 24 hours after birth. If this is not possible due to cultural reasons, bathing should be delayed for at least 6 hours  [according to medical practitioners the vernix (white waxy coating) is an excellent moisturizer and skin protector]

Consider the use of chlorhexidine for umbilical cord care for babies born at home to reduce newborn
mortality. For newborns who are born at home in settings with high neonatal mortality (30 or more neonatal deaths per 1,000 live births) it is recommended to apply chlorhexidine (7.1% chlorhexidine digluconate aqueous solution or gel, delivering 4% chlorhexidine) daily to the umbilical cord stump during the first week of life. This is a new recommendation, and clean, dry cord care remains the standard recommendation for newborns born in health facilities and at home in low neonatal mortality settings. The use of chlorhexidine in these situations may be considered only to replace application of a harmful traditional substance, such as cow dung or urine, to the cord stump.

Q: Can children have baths when they have infections like chicken pox? Why do scars occur and how can we avoid them?

Krishna:  Yes, it's fine for your children to have a bath or a shower 'with clean water' despite being covered in chicken pox spots. Some children find that bathing in lukewarm water helps to ease the itching and if it works for your children you could let them have baths or showers until the spots become less itchy. Children with infections definitely feel better after a bath. 

Scarring usually arises as a result of secondary infection of the chicken pox blisters, hence the advice not to scratch the blisters. Scratching the blisters may transfer bacteria from ones nails into the pox lesion thereby causing further inflammation that might leave a small permanent crater in the skin.  Therefore, if your skin is very itchy apply some calamine lotion to the skin and re-apply the lotion frequently because its duration of action is quite short.

Also, it is important to understand that you have to use very clean water to avoid secondary infections.

Q: Does eating coconuts  during chicken pox infection cause eye scarring and  blindness?

Krishna: It just is a superstition. Coconuts don't cause  blindness. 

The chicken pox infection can cause sudden blindness or stroke and can be life-threatening. The varicella zoster virus, of the herpes virus family, can cause chicken pox and may reactivate later in life in the form of shingles, a very painful rash.

Some studies link the virus that causes chicken pox and shingles to a condition that inflames blood vessels on the temples and scalp in the elderly, called giant cell arteritis. One of these  studies is published in the February 18, 2015, online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of neurology. The condition can cause sudden blindness or stroke and can be life-threatening. The Varicella zoster virus, of the herpes virus family, can cause chicken pox and may reactivate later in life in the form of shingles, a very painful rash.

Shingles is a disease that causes a painful, blistering rash to form on the body and sometimes the face. The Varicella-zoster virus causes it. This is the same virus that causes chickenpox. Once you’ve had chickenpox, the virus stays in your system. It can reemerge decades later as shingles. In about 10 to 20 percent of people with shingles, the rash appears in and around the eye. This type of shingles is called ophthalmic herpes zoster, or herpes zoster ophthalmicus. Shingles in the eye can cause scarring, vision loss, and other long-term problems. You can prevent shingles of the eye and its complications by getting vaccinated if you’re over age 50.

Also Herpes simplex type 1, or HSV1, which causes cold sores on your lips and mouth, can also lead to eye problems. It usually results in an infected cornea. This is known as herpes simplex keratitis. Herpes simplex type 2 (HSV2) can also cause keratitis, mostly in newborns, but it’s rare. A swollen cloudy cornea results because of the infection and people think it is eating copra during chicken pox infection causes it which is not true.

Consult an eye doctor as soon as you notice itching or  redness in the eye to avoid other complications. Doctors will prescribe antiviral eye drops, pills, or both.

Q: Can depression or tension lead to fever? If yes, then what is the scientific reason behind it?






6.  Gadhwal, A. K., Ankit, B. S., Chahar, C., Tantia, P., Sirohi, P., & Agrawal, R. P. (2016). Effect of Carica papaya leaf extract capsule on platelet count in p...J Assoc Physicians India64(6), 22-6.

7. Kasture, P. N., Nagabhushan, K. H., & Kumar, A. (2016). A multi-centric, double blind, placebo controlled, randomized, pros...J Assoc Physicians India64(6), 15-20.


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