All posts by Himadri Thakur

World No Tobacco Day- 2017

Every year, 31st May, is marked as World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) by WHO, lay emphasis on the risks associated with tobacco use. According to WHO 2010 statistics, it was estimated that about 13% (approximately 111,856,400 persons) Of India’s population smoked out of which about 24% of were men and about 3% were women. The highest rate of smoking among men was seen in the age-group 40 – 54; and among women in the age-group 70+.

Majority of the smokers start out young. At such a tender age, one doesn’t think of health risk associated with it and generally smoke to fit in peer circle, family influences or to experiment. Some people start tobacco use because they believe that it helps them cope with stress, anxiety while others may do it because they feel smoking helps in weight loss.

The poisonous nicotine is the chief active ingredient in tobacco and is found in such items as cigarettes, chewing tobacco, and cigars.  When a person smokes, a dose of nicotine reaches the brain. Initially, it improves mood and concentration, decreases anger and stress, relaxes muscles and reduces appetite. However, regular doses of nicotine lead to changes in the brain chemistry, which can cause withdrawal symptoms when there is a decrease in the supply of nicotine. Smoking briefly reduces these withdrawal symptoms and this therefore reinforces the habit. Prolonged usage of tobacco contributes to damaged blood vessels, disturbs cholesterol levels and BP, and increases the risk of coronary heart diseases and respiratory diseases.

Not only does tobacco usage cause physical damage to our body but it also affects our mental health in several ways. Research confirms that smoking is directly proportional to levels of stress- with long exposure to nicotine, stress levels are likely to increase rather than decrease. Other consequences include instability, diminished cognitive intelligence, loss of memory and panic attacks affecting mental well being at work and home. Sudden episodes of sadness and mood swings can also be included.

Suggestions:

  • Since smoking affects physical and mental health in a serious manner it is advisable not to start smoking altogether.
  • If someone is experimenting they must try and quit as soon as possible as they will find it easier at this stage because nicotine has been rated as a very addictive substance.
  • Those who are regular smokers should plan to taper off tobacco gradually.
  • It’s best to avoid the company of smokers and situations that can act as triggers.
  • Develop alternative ways to keep mouth busy through chewing other things like chewing gum, fennel, cardamom etc.
  • Focusing on health can be a strong motivating factor to quit tobacco.
  • Relaxation techniques like breathing exercises and mindfulness are of a great help.
  • It’s beneficial to seek professional help if you are unable to quit smoking on your own.

On this World No Tobacco Day let’s try to abstain from all forms of tobacco for healthy physical and mental being and a better environment.

World Autism Awareness Day

Autism spectrum disorder or autism is a neuro-developmental disorder characterized by impairments in social functioning, language and communication and unusual behaviours and interests. Autism is commonly understood as a neuro-biologically based lifelong developmental disability that is present in the first few years of life. Typically,  by the age of 2 ½ years odd behaviours are visible in most cases, however it may occur later in the childhood as well. Autism is a spectrum disorder meaning its symptoms, abilities and characteristics are expressed in many different combinations and in any degree of severity. Not only do children with autism vary in their cognitive, language and social abilities, they may also display features not common to autism.

 Unlike other children, children with autism have difficulty in forming loving relationships with others, expressing gestures to communicate their needs, little or no interest in sharing pride or pleasure. Autism is much more common than most people think. A recent study conducted by the Intervention Clinical Epidemiology Network Trust (ICENT) suggests that more than 100 million children in India i.e. 1 out of every 150 approx. children suffer from autism in India.

 Autism has a range in terms of the degree of the impairment. Sometimes autistic features range from mild to moderate and children may display average or above average intelligence in particular areas. If they receive adequate intervention in childhood, these children can lead a successful and meaningful life. A few researchers argue that, world famous personalities like Einstein and Mozart also displayed signs of autism and nonetheless have left their mark on the world! On the other end, children who exhibit moderate to severe impairments and deficits fall in the low functioning autism range. Such children need lifelong training and support.

Clinical Features:

  1. Marked impairment in reciprocal social and interpersonal interaction
  • Does not smile while acknowledging others.
  • Fails to imitate behaviours of others.
  • No social play and marked impairment in making friends
  • Lack of attachment to parents and lack of awareness of others’ existence
  • Absence of fear in dangerous situations
  1. Marked impairment in language and nonverbal communication
  • Lack of facial response to voices
  • Delayed speech and absence of communicative sounds like blabbing.
  1. Abnormal behavioural characteristics
  • Repetitive stereo typical behaviours such as head-banging, rocking, clapping
  • Attachment to inanimate objects e.g. blankets, toy
  • Fussy eating habits
  1. Learning Disabilities
  • Since some children with autism show intellectual, sensory, perceptual and cognitive impairments, there are chances that such children are likely to display symptoms of learning disabilities as well.
  1. Co morbid conditions
  • Sometimes autism can be accompanied by mental retardation, epilepsy, ADHD which can cause additional behavioural issues however these may occur separately also.

Treatment

Treatments for autism are directed at minimising the core problems of autism, maximising child’s independence and quality of life and helping the child and family cope more effectively with the disorder. Treatment may consist of different modes of intervention such as medication, behaviour therapy, parental counselling, speech and occupational therapy along with special education.  Assessing the inherent talents and with proper training in those areas, parents can see positive developments in these children.