Do you know that Pneumonia accounts for one in four under-five deaths that is 1.5 million children die from pneumonia every year even though pneumonia is one of the solvable problems in global health? Nigeria ranks among countries that contribute 70 percent of the global burden of pneumonia.
Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs, specifically in one or both air sacs. The sacs may become filled with pus which causes the following signs of pneumonia in children: fever, labored breathing and chills.
Some of the signs and symptoms of Pneumonia in children are:
- Difficulty breathing
- Low fever of 38.5 C or lower
- General feeling of discomfort
- Cold-like symptoms such as a sore throat, chills, headache
- Coughing that is dry and frequent
- Rapid breathing with wheezing sounds
- Stomach pain
- Chest pain
- Shaking and chills
- Mucus tinged with blood or has a green or rust color
- Poor feeding (in infants) and decreased appetite (in older children)
If you notice any of these symptoms make sure you take your child to the hospital immediately. Pneumonia is caused by bacteria, a fungus, viruses or parasites. For bacteria, the organisms that antibiotics are responsible for pneumonia are Streptococcus and mycoplasma. For those with compromised immune systems, pneumonia can be caused by organisms such as Pneumocystis jiroveci. This is responsible for frequent pneumonia bouts in those who have HIV. Hence, a doctor may recommend an HIV test.
A child may develop pneumonia by:
- Breathing pneumonia-infected air or certain bacteria
- Having a viral upper respiratory infection such as the cold or flu
- Experiencing complications with other diseases such as chicken pox or measles
- Breathing gastric juices from the stomach and large amounts of food into the lungs, or vomiting into the lungs. This usually occurs in a seizure or stroke
Pneumonia can either be community-associated pneumonia (spread at school or work, for example) or healthcare-associated pneumonia (spread through hospitals).
Once on antibiotics, a child with pneumonia has a smaller chance of passing on the bacteria to anyone else at home. Nevertheless, be sure that everyone at home:
- Washes hands frequently and correctly
- Must avoid using the same cups, plates or utensils with the sick child
- Must have up to date immunizations to prevent other infections
- Boost a child’s immune system by allowing him to get enough sleep, adequate exercise and have a healthy diet
- Sneeze or cough into a tissue and wash your hands’ thereafter
Young children are more susceptible to contracting pneumonia and this can be a potentially life-threatening illness if left untreated. Pneumonia should not be taken lightly, and parents should ensure that they look out for signs of pneumonia in children especially when they have been unwell for a persistent period.
Make sure your child gets the Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine, PCV to protect him/ her against the disease and make sure every member of your family is also vaccinated