We ought to stand together in the fight against pneumonia

03Nov 2017
The Guardian
We ought to stand together in the fight against pneumonia

WORLD Pneumonia Day (November 12) provides an annual forum for the world to stand together and demand action in the fight against pneumonia.

More than 100 organisations representing the interests of children joined forces as the Global Coalition against Child Pneumonia to hold the first World Pneumonia Day on November 2, 2009.

Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs, which occurs when either bacteria or viruses get stuck in the lungs. The germs multiply and form an infected area.

The World Health Organisation estimates that pneumonia accounts for 15 per cent of all deaths of children under five. In 2015 alone 922,000 children died globally from the disease.

Pneumonia is also a serious threat for newborn babies, it is among the top three diseases causing infant and under-five mortality. Other diseases are diarrhoea and malaria.

Much as medical interventions are needed to reverse the trend, mothers and guardians of children need to be educated about the disease too. This is given the fact that a majority of them are ignorant of the disease.

Despite the fact that there is a lot of misinformation about the actual cause of the disease, some parents tend to associate pneumonia with cold while others associate severe coughing, which is one of pneumonia symptoms with the swelling of the uvula.

There are a lot of factors that lead to infection and research shows that developing countries like Tanzania have the highest number of children with the disease.

We are told that indoor air pollution caused by cooking and heating with biomass fuels (such as wood or dung), living in crowded homes and parental smoking increase a child's susceptibility to pneumonia.

Pneumonia can be spread in a number of ways. The infectious agents (bacteria or viruses) that are found in the nose can infect the lungs if inhaled. They may also spread via air-borne droplets from a cough or sneeze.

  Parents and guardians should not wait until the cough gets serious but should take the child to hospital as soon as possible.

We are told that if a child has a cough that is accompanied by fever and deep laboured breathing, he should be taken to the nearest health facility for general assessment and proper medication according to experts.

According to the experts there are two types of pneumonia, one being severe and which may require a child to be put on oxygen supply, given antibiotics and monitored in hospital. The other type is not normally associated with emergency signs although a child might have difficulty in breathing too.

 Parents should avoid buying over the counter medicine. They instead should do that after a clinician's prescription, because while medicines are life saving, irrational prescription can lead to resistance.

Children with pneumonia may have a range of symptoms depending on their age and the cause of infection. Some common symptoms of pneumonia in children and infants include rapid or difficult breathing, cough, fever, chills, headache, loss of appetite, wheezing and nasal flaring, among others.

Although children are the most vulnerable group, pneumonia also affects other age groups especially those beyond 65 years. This is due to the fact that the body's immune system lowers with age. But also people who are chain smokers. Other risk groups include people who are malnourished due to health conditions or lack of access to food and all groups whose immunity is low due to various reasons including diseases like HIV and diabetes.