Thai Cave Rescue: Impact on Mental, Physical Health of the Boys
It’s difficult to gauge their mental health condition after being trapped in the cave for 3 weeks.
It’s difficult to gauge their mental health condition after being trapped in the cave for 3 weeks.(Photo: AP)

Thai Cave Rescue: Impact on Mental, Physical Health of the Boys

Imagine if you are trapped in a pitch dark place with no food or even water. And the darkness so dense that you can’t even see your own body parts. How would you feel then?

Now imagine what would be the health condition of the 12 young footballers and their coach who were trapped in the Tham Luang cave in Thailand for 3 weeks.

The 12 young footballers, aged between 11 and 16, and their 25-year-old coach got trapped on June 23 while exploring the cave in northern Thailand's Chiang Rai province after soccer practice. A rainy seasonal downpour flooded the tunnel, making it impossible for them to get out.

Effect on Their Mental Health

Even though the children have been rescued for now, they will need constant medical attention.
Even though the children have been rescued for now, they will need constant medical attention.
(Photo: Reuters)

Dr Sameer Malhotra, Psychiatrist at Max Hospital, Delhi says that post such an incident, the children and their coach may experience some issues such as:

  • Depression
  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Anxiety

Dr Malhotra says that after such a traumatic episode, the children may fear staying alone or may feel helplessness in themselves for a while.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD is a type of anxiety disorder which mostly develops in people after they’ve witnessed or experienced traumatic events.

Dr Malhotra explains that in this case, the children might go through some difficulties such as:

  • Anxiety to live in a closed room
  • Anxiety in a crowd
  • Fear of flying or heights
  • Irregular sleep or being awake due to fear, or nightmares
  • Sudden, severe perspiration
Being a part of a football team, the children may have been coached to handle adverse conditions but such episodes are not normal and no one can be trained to deal with them. So there may be a chance that the children and their coach might develop anxiety or PTSD. 
Dr Sameer Malhotra, Psychiatrist

Also Read: What It’s Really Like to Endure Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

So will the children refrain from such adventures in the future?

It’s not necessary that the children refrain from all adventures in future but usually, when people are scared about any activity, they try to avoid it. 
Dr Sameer Malhotra, Psychiatrist

Treatment Options

Even though the children have been rescued for now, they will need constant medical attention. Some treatment options that may help in such cases are:

  • Psychotherapy
  • Medicine
  • Post Traumatic Desensitization
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Effect on Physical Health

The children and the coach will have to be examined thoroughly for further treatment.
The children and the coach will have to be examined thoroughly for further treatment.
(Photo: Xinhua/IANS)

Post rescue, the children and the coach have been kept in quarantine. Even the parents have not been allowed to meet them.

Dr Smita Malhotra, Paediatric Gastroenterologist at Apollo Hospitals, Delhi says:

Since the kids were trapped for 3 weeks, so the sudden burst of light might affect their eyes. They might experience some difficulty in vision. The lack of food and water in the caves may have affected their nutrition and diet so their immunity levels might also be low for a few days.
Dr Smita Malhotra, Paediatric Gastroenterologist 

Apart from this, the children and the coach will have to be examined thoroughly for further treatment. They might also experience acute weight loss due to lack of proper diet when trapped.

In such cases, there’s a danger of dehydration. So there also might be a deficiency of sodium and electrolytes which in turn might have an impact on the liver and the kidneys.
Dr Smita Malhotra, Paediatric Gastroenterologist 

There are also chances of the children and the coach developing pneumonia. Being trapped in the cave for so long might also make them prone to lung infections.

It will take them at least a week to get back to normal health conditions.

As per a report in BBC, there could be a number of health issues if one is trapped in a dark cave for so long:

  • Effect on Lungs: The poor air quality inside the cave may put them in the danger of lung infections.
  • Effect on Skin: Due to the humidity inside the cave, their skin may lose some colour and they might develop some skin infections.
  • Effect on Digestion: Lack of food in the cave may also put them at the risk of malnutrition. Sudden eating is also not advisable since it might impact heart health and put them at the risk of organ failure.

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