Every year the festival of Holi is celebrated with zest across the nation. Doctors claim that despite precautions, people report with health problems like allergies on the skin and in the eyes. MiD DAY spoke to specialists across the city for suggestions on how to have a safe and organic Holi this year.
The markets are flooded with artificial colours for the festival. Most colours are prepared using harmful chemicals and irritants like acids, mica, mercury, arsenic, glass powder and lead chromate. These chemicals could cause severe health problems like eye irritation, skin allergies and dermatitis.
Doctors urge that instead of using cheap and harmful colours one must use natural, skin-friendly and herbal colours this Holi. They reiterate that one must keep safety in mind in order to have a peaceful festival season. Dr Mohan Thomas, cosmetic surgeon, Breach Candy Hospital said, “Earlier colours were all natural and made from flowers, leaves and vegetables.
However, to reduce the cost of production and at the same time increase the yield, now these natural colours have been replaced by synthetic colours. There are reports of these colours being carcinogenic too.”
Doctors say that during Holi most problems are related to skin allergies, irritation in eyes, allergies in the ears. If the synthetic colours somehow enter the stomach it can lead to fainting, unconsciousness and vomiting. They also warn that colour poisoning could also claim the lives of victims.
Dr Ragini Parekh, head of ophthalmology, JJ Hospital said, “It’s a busy day at the hospital every year due to injuries. Toxic colours and water balloons can result in abrasions to the cornea, internal bleeding in the eyes and conjunctivitis. To prevent these injuries one must avoid applying colour to the face area and balloons. Use of natural and organic colours should be encouraged.”
While it is important that people play with organic colours, kids should try and avoid applying colours above the neck. It is also important to protect the hair and teeth from any form of colour to avoid long-term effects. Dr Ashok Rathod, head of paediatrics, JJ Hospital suggests, “Children should avoid playing Holi with balloons or colours as they are more susceptible to skin rashes, eye injuries and breathing problems.”
Doctors say that before leaving the house to play Holi, one must apply a thick layer of moisturising cream to prevent the harmful effect of toxins present in colours. In the event of an attack on the face with colours, one must try to keep the lips shut and eyes closed. One can also oil hair thoroughly before playing with colours to prevent any kind of hair damage. Clothes covering the body are considered the ideal attire for the occasion.
ENT specialist Dr Prabodh Karnik advises, “Water balloons and squirt guns should be avoided as their impact can lead to perforated eardrums. While some perforations can heal on their own, some need surgery. Allergies due to toxic colours can lead to asthma or bronchospasm. After Holi celebrations, it is very important to have a good bath and clean the ears and nose.”
Doctors urge that if possible one must avoid playing with colours and celebrate the festival by distributing sweets and gifts. It is always preferable to play Holi with plain water but due to the drought situation across the state, the government has advised people not to use water. If avoiding colours is not an option, organic and herbal colours are the safest option say doctors.
Dr Jitesh Shetty, cosmetologist and dermatologist, Tvam Clinic, said, “Wet gulaal on the skin for a long time can lead to staining of the skin. The chemicals in the colour can lead to toxicity like mercury poisoning and arsenical dermatosis, which leads to whitish spots on the skin, two months after Holi. High usage of colours can also lead to fainting spells or unconsciousness. To minimise skin damage due to colours, one must apply physical sunscreen, which contains zinc oxide with an SPF of at least 30-45. Hair should be covered with a bandana so as to avoid scalp and hair damage.”
Dr. P Suresh, Ophthalmo-logist at Fortis Hospital said, “Hitting the eye with a water balloon causes ruptured eye ball. In case such a situation occurs, rush to the nearest hospital. If colour enters the eyes, wash your eyes immediately with water. For a safe Holi avoid water balloons, and avoid applying colours above the neck. Home-made colours are the best substitute for chemical colours.”
Dos and don’ts
Prevent applying colours to the face.
If the colour enters the eyes, immediately wash them using tap water.
Cover your hair using caps and keep your eyes and lips shut while smearing colours.
Parents should continuously monitor their kids while playing with colours.
Avoid using synthetic colours while playing Holi.
Wear clothes that help cover maximum portion of your body.
In case of prolonged or severe allergy or irritation, immediately rush to a doctor.
Yellow: Can be made from turmeric (haldi) and gram flour (besan), multani mitti (fuller’s earth). Also marigold (gainda) or yellow chrysanthemum flowers can be dried and crushed to fine powder to form this colour.
Red: Can be prepared from red sandalwood powder that is good for skin. Red hibiscus flowers are also used for the red colour preparation.
Saffron: Tesu flower also known as flame of forest (butea monosperma) can be boiled or soaked overnight to obtain a nice smelling orange colour. Also these flowers can be crushed to form powder and then can be mixed to sandalwood powder. It smells great and is smooth to touch.
Green: Gulmohar (delonix regia) leaves can also be dried and powdered to attain fine green colour. Tender leaves of wheat plant can be crushed to get green colour.
Pink: Beetroot slices can be soaked overnight in the water or boil for few minutes to make pink colour.
Black: Gooseberries (fruits of amla) can be used to make black colour. First boil them and then dilute the fruit with water to get shades of black. It is also known to be a good conditioner.