By Jacinta Nwachukwu
The World Health Organisation (WHO) states that pneumonia is the single largest cause of death in children less than five years.
It observes that the disease killed 1.1 million children in that age category in 2012 and most of them were less than two years.
Due to its impact on many countries, especially among the poor and marginalised children, the United Nations declared every November 12 the World Pneumonia Day.
It is observed across the world to raise awareness on pneumonia, promote interventions to protect children against it, treat it and generate more aggressive actions, among others, to combat it in all fronts.
As the world again celebrates the Day, observers note that people should uphold the values of the theme of the Day which is: “Highlighting innovative solutions to end childhood pneumonia.’’
Medical experts advise that focus should be on children who live in poor or remote communities, observing that they are often susceptible to pneumonia.
According to them, there is need for collaborative interventions to fight the preventable disease that has constituted threat to child’s survival.
They solicit collective efforts of fathers, mothers and members of the community at preventing deaths arising from pneumonia.
Pneumonia is a type of acute respiratory infection that affects the lungs, especially the lower part of the respiratory tract.
When a child has pneumonia, the sacs in the lung are filled with pus and fluid, which makes breathing painful and limits oxygen intake.
But medical experts say that the disease can be prevented by immunisation, exclusive breastfeeding, intake of nutritious diet and maintaining a healthy environment.
In spite of this, they note that only 30 per cent of children who are infected with pneumonia receive the required medical attention.
Dr Edem Duke, a paediatrician, said adequate nutrition, immunisation of children who are less than five years and addressing environmental factors, would prevent pneumonia during cold weather.
She noted that severe pneumonia in children could affect their appetite and they might also experience unconsciousness and convulsions, among others.
Duke advised the parents to ensure that they did not expose their children to cold weather while the adults should reduce the intake of cold drinks.
In his view, Dr Samson Olori, a paediatric surgeon with the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, Gwagwalada, urged caregivers, including parents, to ensure that children were properly fed with balanced diet to develop sound immune system.
He said proper feeding would boost the immune system of the child to combat any infections, including those that caused pneumonia.
In the event of pneumonia infection in spite of various precautions, he advised that the child must be taken to a hospital for proper medical examinations.
“Often times the child may have catarrh, loss of appetite, high fever and cough, indicating that something is wrong in the body, therefore, early medical intervention is necessary for proper diagnosis and treatment.
“If we are able to curtail some of the things which could predispose a child to pneumonia, it will reduce cases in hospitals,’’ he said.
The surgeon advised the public against self-medication and buying of drugs from pharmacies or patent medicine stores without doctor’s prescription.
He also observed that pneumonia could spread quickly to a lot of children, especially in crèches and schools, if there were no adequate attention on the sufferer.
He, therefore, called on stakeholders to ensure effective personal hygiene, including proper hand washing and clean environment.
Giving more insight into some of the causes of pneumonia, Dr Adamu Onu, a paediatrician, said that apart from children, the elderly and people whose immune system were suppressed were often at risk of contracting pneumonia.
He, nonetheless, argued that there were different organisms that could cause pneumonia in children and adults.
He identified cough, chest pain, fever and difficulty in breathing as major signs of pneumonia, warning that if the condition was not treated or poorly managed, complications might occur.
In his comment, Dr Solomon Adeleke, also a paediatrician, observed that adults had the capacity of coping with pneumonia than children.
He cautioned adults who were fond of spiting carelessly to stop the habit because pneumonia, as an infectious disease, could infect others by having contact with the sufferer’s saliva.
The paediatrician also advised that babies should be kept warm during cold weather to prevent them from contracting pneumonia.
To further strengthen innovative solutions to childhood pneumonia, the Society for Family Health says it has implemented some useful programmes that will address the causes and treatment of the infection.
The society says it has trained more than 1,500 community oriented resource persons on correct diagnosis, appropriate treatment and early recognition of danger signs of pneumonia.
Ms Nwando Onyeabo, the Corporate Communications Officer of the society, said the society had provided respiratory timers and amoxicillin in some health centres to boost diagnosis and treatment of pneumonia.
“The project ensures a mechanism where access to services and commodities is sustained in collaboration with the state government to build good referral systems in primary health centres,’’ she said.
By and large, stakeholders opine that as the world celebrates the World Pneumonia Day, people should participate in media campaigns, press conferences, meetings with healthcare providers and government leaders, among others, to that drew the attention of the public to childhood pneumonia and its dangers.(NANFeatures)