Immunisation exercise, exclusive breastfeeding prevent pneumonia
Aside malaria and other communicable diseases that affect children, pneumonia is another ailment that accounts for the death of many children under the age of five globally.
As November 12 marks World Pneumonia Day, the public, especially caregivers and parents, have been advised to ensure that children are taken to health centres, when due for immunisation. They should also adhere to such preventive measures as immunisation, vaccination with pneumonia vaccines, good nutrition, especially for newborns through exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months.
When signs of pneumonia are observed in children, they should be taken to nearest clinic or hospital for adequate and quality management. Pneumonia can be very severe and even life-threatening.
In adults, vaccines can help prevent certain types of pneumonia. Good hygiene, quitting smoking and keeping immune system strong through exercise and healthy eating are other ways to prevent pneumonia.
Vaccines are available to prevent pneumonia caused by pneumococcal bacteria or the flu virus, or influenza. However, vaccines can’t prevent all cases of infection, but compared to people who are vaccinated, those who aren’t vaccinated tend to get pneumonia.
To reduce the chances of getting pneumonia, the public is advised to avoid people who have infections that sometimes lead to pneumonia, as well as stay away from people who have colds, flu, or other respiratory tract infections and wash their hands often.
Dr. Opeyemi Odedere, an Advisor of Save the Children Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, said pneumonia is a form of acute respiratory infection that affects small sacs in the lungs called alveoli, which could result in pus or fluid filled alveoli, leading to painful breathing and ultimately limits oxygen intake. When the lungs are filled with mucus like fluid, it provokes coughing, shortness of breath and fever, among other symptoms. As the lungs are filled with fluid, their ability to take in oxygen decreases.
Odedere said pneumonia could also be caused by bacteria, e.g. streptococcus pneumoniae and haemophilus infleunzae, while that caused by viruses result in respiratory syncytial virus, among others. When caused by fungi it results in Pneumocystis jirovesi.
Sometimes, coughing and sneezing are pneumonia’s major signs and symptoms. However, majorly fast breathing, chest in drawing, which manifests in the chest drawing inward instead of expanding during inhalation. In severe cases, there could be convulsion, unconsciousness, hypothermi.
Odedere said: “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 be given through a drip, and oxygen can be used if necessary.
“Pneumonia kills more children under five years of age than any other illness in every region of the world. Mortality due to childhood pneumonia is strongly linked to malnutrition, poverty and inadequate access to health care.”
Deputy Director, Lagos State Ministry of Health, Dr. Monsurat Adeleke, said about 920,000 children die daily from pneumonia, but the world has decided to eliminate the ailment because it accounts for one of the greatest child killer diseases.
She said: “We have malaria, pneumonia and diarrhea, among others, aside vaccines preventive diseases. We have decided to look at pneumonia in integrated manner, where we flag of community campaign to ensure that all 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.”
She explained that in Lagos State pneumonia and maternal newborn, child health cases are on increase between 2015 and 2016, but recently the state decided to fund a health programme to ensure that no child in the state would die of related malaria cases.
“We started vaccinations for pneumonia and other related cases in Lagos State in August 2016 and the number of pneumonia cases has been reduced,” she explained. “As we are doing these, we also increase awareness to our caregivers and parents, including nursing mothers to practise exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months.
“If they do this, it would boost children’s immunity, so that they will not be affected by pneumonia and other related cases. We counsel people to always wash their hands to avoid infections like pneumonia, as well as going out to the community to speak with children, parents and caregivers on health education to avoid overcrowded place in order to reduce evolution.”
Adeleke said government couldn’t achieve this alone, so there is need for partnership with other agencies and private organisaitions should join the fight against pneumonia cases.
She said: “Lagos Primary Healthcare Board has procured vaccines for pneumonia prevention and distributed them to all primary healthcare facilities in Lagos State.
“We do not encourage self-medications. We still educate people that primary healthcare is the bedrock of good health in all functioning health systems. When children come down with pneumonia, they should please go to the nearest primary healthcare.”
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