Pneumonia among children below the age group of five is the single largest cause of death among kids worldwide. As you know, Pneumonia which is a lung infection commonly seen is caused by a number of infectious agents like virus, bacteria and fungi, pneumonia creates an acute respiratory infection that affects the lungs.
Pneumonia among kids can spread in a number of ways. This virus or bacteria that are commonly found in a child’s nose or throat, can infect the person if it enters the lungs. They may also spread via air-borne droplets from a cough or sneeze.
Pneumonia is common during the cold season and can clear up within two to three weeks. But at times, it can become serious and may even prove fatal if it is not treated in time. Infants and children are at high risk of pneumonia.
Signs and symptoms of Pneumonia among kids
Pneumonia caused by a virus is less severe, it starts as a flu and gets worse as the days pass. The one caused by bacteria is severe and comes with laboured breathing, high fever and cough.
In both cases, the cough can last for weeks even after the fever has come down.
- Difficulty in breathing
- Tiredness and weakness
- Sudden and severe chills
- Nausea or vomiting
- Chest pains and pain in the ribs
- Cough, that produces mucus
- Loss of appetite
- Muscle aches
- Laboured breathing
Remember, these symptoms may look like other common health problems and ignoring them thus leading to delay in treatment. Make sure that you take the child to a doctor for a diagnosis as soon as you observe the above symptoms.
Pneumonia Among Kids Can Be Life-threatening
Pneumonia can be fatal among children and infants if they face a severe breathing problem and also if the bacteria enters the blood.
While most healthy children can fight the infection with their natural immunity, children with low immunity levels are at higher risk of developing pneumonia. A child’s immune system may be weakened by malnutrition or undernourishment or if the child is not breastfed.
Below are some of the steps parents can take to prevent Pneumonia
- Keep vaccinations up to date. Every child starting at 6 weeks should commence with a series of vaccines that keeps bacterial types of Pneumonia at bay.
- Children who are 6 months and above, should get a flu vaccine every year.
- Ensure that the common surfaces like stair railings, doorknobs, taps, tables etc are kept clean and wiped regularly with disinfectants.
- Keep home free from all kinds of smoke.
- Teach your children basic etiquettes of handwash. Make it a practice that they wash their hands immediately after they come inside the house and frequently during cold seasons when they spend a lot of time inside the house with others.
- Teach the children to cover their nose and mouth with facial tissues or handkerchief when they sneeze. If they do not have anything in hand, let them sneeze on their sleeves.
- In case if your child is having a weak immune system and is at high risk because of chronic conditions like heart, lung or kidney problem, check with your paediatrician if any supplements or vaccines are required.
Preventing pneumonia in children is an essential component. Adequate nutrition is key to improving a child’s natural immunity, starting from breastfeeding for the initial six months.
Following cleanliness practices like avoiding indoor air pollution, hand hygiene will also help in keeping pneumonia at bay.
By Dr. Sharil Hegde, Pediatrician, Columbia Asia Hospital Hebbal, Bengaluru.