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Changing season, synthetic Holi colours, mass gatherings and direct contact can get you viral infections : The Tribune India


Dr Vikas Sharma

Changing season, synthetic Holi colours, mass gatherings and direct contact can be conducive for viral infections

To celebrate Holi or not? That seems to be the question on everyone’s mind. For starters, the mid-March to mid-April period is the peak season when infectious diseases like viral skin infections, seasonal flu, mononucleosis, cold and cough spread. Infected people start shedding virus even before they experience the full effect of illness.

After a considerable period of consistent decline in Covid positive cases and as India began inoculating the 12-14 year-olds , Holi lovers want to celebrate the festival in some style after 2 years of lull amid coronavirus pandemic.

However, changing season, synthetic colours, mass gatherings and direct contact can get you viral infections as well.

Every year after Holi, the OPDs of all hospitals tend to swell up with people complaining of skin and respiratory disorders. Skin allergies, skin infections, dermatitis, skin eczemas and respiratory diseases are the major problems people are afflicted with. With changing season, viral skin and fungal skin infections are already on the rise. Therefore, chances of falling prey to infection after celebrating the festival of colours increase.

Celebrating Holi involves direct skin contact and people tend to smear colours on one another’s face. In addition, high suspended particulates concentrations occur during Holi and that may cause or aggravate adverse health effects like skin and respiratory irritations, making people more prone and susceptible to catching virus. Children, elderly and pregnant women are more susceptible.

Those who already have atopic dermatitis, bronchial asthma and skin eczemas should completely avoid playing Holi with synthetic colours.

Research on synthetic colours has found them containing a considerable amount of particles with an aerodynamic diameter smaller than 10 micrometres and they show a close association with human leukocytes, a pro-inflammatory potential. These colours can have cytotoxic effects in higher concentration and can induce an oxidative burst in human granulocytes and monocytes, thus making people extremely susceptible to viral infections.

The chemicals used in Holi colours consist of synthetic dyes and in many cases mica dust too that can cause major skin allergies. Wearing a good sun block with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 30 or a good barrier cream is advisable to all before you go out to play Holi. And wash off colours immediately. Else use herbal colours.

These synthetic colours contain toxic and poisonous chemicals. Often, they also contain heavy metals, acids, alkalis, powdered glass, asbestos, chalk paste etc. The black paste has lead oxide, green has copper sulphate, and red has mercury sulphate. The shimmering given to these colours is by mica and powdered glass, which are meant for industrial use.

Already lots of people are having post Covid Telogen Effluvilum (hair loss disorder) while synthetic Holi colours also can cause loss of hair, thinning of hair and lusterless hair texture. One should be extra careful about children and elderly as they have sensitive skin. And if you must celebrate the festival, do so in a smart and cautious way. Avoid mass gatherings or pool parties. Enjoy the festival with your family members at home and go for organic colours instead of synthetic colours.

(Dr Sharma is a Chandigarh-based dermatologist)


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