Fight childhood pneumonia with immunisation, exclusive breastfeeding
To prevent pneumonia, medical experts have urged smokers to kick the habit. They also advised on keeping away from infected persons. It is also important to stay away from people who have cold, the flu, or other respiratory tract infections and wash hands frequently.
Professor of Medicine/Honorary Consultant Physician and Nephrologists’ Renal Unity Obafemi Awolowo University and Obafemi University Teaching Hospitals, Ile-Ife, Fatiu Areogundade said diagnosis of pneumonia always begins with taking a medical history and performing a physical examination to look for characteristic signs and symptoms of the infection. He said: “Listening to the lungs may reveal areas where sound is diminished, wheezing, or crackling sounds. Some commonly performed diagnostic tests include chest X-ray, which enables the doctor to detect whether or not pneumonia is present. However, it does not provide information about the organism responsible for the infection.
“Another pneumonia examination is microbiology test to identify causative organism. Tests may be performed on blood or sputum. Rapid urine tests are available to identify Streptococcus pneumoniae and Legionella pneumophila. Cultures of blood or sputum not only identify the responsible organism, but can also be examined to determine which antibiotics are effective against a particular bacterial strain.
“Most types of bacterial pneumonia are not highly contagious. Even though it is possible to spread bacteria from one person to another, pneumonia typically occurs in people with risk factors or weakened immune defences, when bacteria that are normally present in the nose or throat invade the lung tissue. Any kind of bacterial or viral pneumonia has the potential to be contagious, but Mycoplasma pneumoniae and tuberculosis are two types of bacterial pneumonia that are highly contagious. Breathing in infected droplets that come from patients who are coughing or sneezing can spread the disease to others.”
Dr. Opeyemi Odedere of Save the Children Maternal, Newborn and Child Health Advisor said pneumonia is a form of acute respiratory infection that affects the small sacs in the lungs called alveoli, which could result into pus or fluid filled alveoli, leading to painful breathing and ultimately limits oxygen intake. He said: “When the lungs are filled with mucus like fluid, they provoke coughing, shortness of breath and fever, among other symptoms. As the lungs fill with fluid their ability to take in oxygen decreases.
“Causes of pneumonia include bacterial, for instance, streptococcus pneumoniae and haemophilus infleunzae. Another cause of pneumonia is viruses, for example, respiratorory syncytial virus, among others. Fungi can also cause pneumonia, for instance, Pneumocystis jirovesi. “Sometimes coughing and sneezing are the major signs and symptoms of pneumonia, as well as fast breathing, chest in-drawing, which means during inhalation, the chest draws inward instead of expanding. In severe cases, there could be convulsion, unconsciousness and hypothermi.
“Pneumonia can be treated with dispersible amoxycillin antibiotics. However, for people with weakened immune system, pneumonia can be severe and will need to be treated in hospital, where antibiotics and fluids can be given through a drip, and oxygen can be used if necessary.He explained that pneumonia kills more children less than five years of age than any other illness globally. Mortality due to childhood pneumonia is strongly linked to malnutrition, poverty and inadequate access to healthcare.
Deputy Director, Lagos State Ministry of Health, Dr. Monsurat Adeleke, explained that about 920,000 children die daily due to pneumonia, but the world has decided to eliminate pneumonia, as it accounts for one of the greatest child killer diseases globally. She said: “We have decided to look at pneumonia in integrated manner, where we flag off community campaign to ensure that all the children are healthy. Save the Children and United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) have decided to create awareness about pneumonia because they do not want any child to die of pneumonia.
“We are educating caregivers and parents, including nursing mothers, to practise exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months. If they do this, it would boost their children’s immunity, so that they will not be affected by pneumonia and other related cases.
“We counsel people to wash their hands always to avoid infections like pneumonia. We urge parents and caregivers to avoid overcrowded places.” Adeleke noted that government cannot achieve this alone, and that there is need for partnership with other agencies and private organisations to join in the fight against pneumonia.