Handling Pneumonia in children
Pneumonia is an infection of one or both of the lungs caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi. It is a serious infection in which the air sacs is filled with pus and other liquid, causing cough with phlegm or pus, fever, chills, and difficulty in breathing.
According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) pneumonia forecasts show that 1.4 million children under the age of five could die from pneumonia over the next decade in Nigeria, on current trends – the highest number of any country in the world and more than 20 percent of childhood deaths from pneumonia globally. It is also estimated that 809,000 of these deaths would be averted by significantly scaling up services to prevent and treat pneumonia.
“Researchers also found boosting pneumonia services would create an additional ‘ripple effect’, preventing 1.2 million extra child deaths from other major childhood diseases at the same time.”
For registered nurse, midwife and founder, Pregnancy Lounge, Tosin Matthew-Akinsiku, “anyone can get Pneumonia, however, people with high risk of this condition include, children who are younger than age five and adults, 65 years and older, also people with certain medical conditions, as well as those who smoke or are exposed to toxic fumes are also at higher risks.”
She said that both bacteria and viruses are major causes of Pneumonia and children whose immune defences or lungs are weakened by other illnesses, such as Asthma, or Cancer have higher risk of developing this condition.
Viral and Bacterial pneumonia are contagious, that is, they can spread from person to person through inhalation of airborne droplets from a sneeze or cough. Contact with surfaces or objects that are contaminated with pneumonia-causing bacteria or viruses also contribute in spreading it. However, fungal Pneumonia can be gotten from the environment. It does not spread from person to person
Mathew-Akinsiku noted that the chance that a child will develop pneumonia is not affected by how he/she is dressed or by air temperature on cold days.
On its symptoms, the advocate for marternal and child health said that Pneumonia, just like other infections, produces a fever, which in turn may cause sweating, chills, and general discomfort. The child may also have an appetite loss, and seem less energetic than normal. Babies and toddlers may seem pale and limp, and cry more than usual.
Pneumonia can cause breathing difficulties such as fast or laboured breathing, cough that produces mucus, pain in the chest and particularly with coughing or deep breathing. She stressed that it is important to visit the hospital immediately, if you detect any anomaly, ensure sufficient rest and take enough fluid.
On prevention, Matthew-Akinsiku said babies and children should be promptly vaccinated, parents should focus on adequate nutrition and ensure that children feed on balanced diet. “Help children practice good hygiene such as washing hands regularly or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Environmental factors, such as indoor air pollution, should be addressed. Children should be taught to cover their noses and mouths when sneezing.”