The deadliest of diseases that affects kids, pneumonia takes the life of young children than any other disease. Every 60 minutes at least 100 children die of pneumonia every day. One in every six deaths in kids under the age of five is due to pneumonia. These facts make us wonder whether this disease doesn’t come with an effective treatment option. Sadly, the single primary cause of pneumonia in children is preventable with a vaccine. The World Immunization Day was just over a couple of days back (November 10th) during which governments, health sector industry and social media were repeatedly insisting on the importance of vaccination. Still, we never pay heed to these voices and end up losing lives of our beloved kids. More than the candies and wafers, preserving our future generation’s health is the dire need of the hour.
Pneumonia is a lung infection that can be due to a bacteria, virus, fungi, mycoplasmas or chemical/environmental agents. While anyone can be affected by it, older adults, young kids and individuals with asthma/COPD are at an increased risk. The disease symptoms can be anywhere from mild to severe depending on the individual’s age, health condition and the type of pneumonia acquired. Fluid build-up, lung damage and breathing trouble are common side effects of pneumonia. Common symptoms of the disease include:
Getting vaccinated is the fist step towards prevention of pneumonia. Get yourself a flu shot every year against influenza virus as flu is the most common cause of pneumonia. Ensure than children younger than 5 years and adults over the age of 65 are vaccinated every year against pneumococcal pneumonia.
Other precautionary measures include washing your hands after using the bathroom, blowing your nose during cold, before cooking and changing the diaper for the baby. Apart from young children and older adults smokers are the next group of people who are at a higher risk of pneumonia. This is mainly because smoking inhibits the lung’s ability to fight off infection and they are also said to be at an increased risk of catching pneumonia. Apart from this, it is always good to eat nutritious foods, lead a healthy lifestyle and exercise regularly to improve your immune system and prevent every chance of acquiring cold or any other respiratory illness.
World Pneumonia Day
Incepted in 2009, the World Pneumonia Day is celebrated every year on November 12th to raise awareness about pneumonia, take steps to prevent, protect or treat the disease and keep researching for better ways to combat it.
Protecting against pneumonia is the best approach as it frees the individual of overloaded burden of suffering, pain and economic crisis. Exclusively breastfeeding the child during the first six months of the infant’s life (as suggested by WHO) strengthens the baby’s immune system thereby reducing their risk of infection. Research shows that infants who are exclusively breastfed are at a 23% reduced risk of pneumonia whereas other babies are 15 times likelier to die of pneumonia.
Eating nutritious foods promises a fully-functional immune system whereas malnourished children are at an increased risk of acquiring the infection, suffering from the disease for a prolonged time and also face higher chances of death risk. It is necessary for a child to eat enough macronutrient- and micronutrient-rich foods to stay healthy. If you want to know the key macronutrients and micronutrients needed for a healthy well-being please visit the website www.firsteatright.com.
Vaccines are the best way to prevent the occurrence of the disease and prevent mortality too. While pneumonia can be due to various causes the most important ones can be curbed with vaccines.
Hygiene practises, clean water and good sanitation also prevent the disease from occurring. While sanitation facilities have improved we have not reached a point where the global population is covered. Clean air is another way to prevent pneumonia but with current air pollution rates it is highly doubtful whether this would be achievable.
When protection and prevention of the disease doesn’t work and the individual contracts the disease treating the illness is the only practical option. In order to treat pneumonia, we must correctly identify symptoms and diagnose it properly. While high fever, cough and breathing problems are common signs the disease is often confused with malaria in certain countries leading to misdiagnosis. Oxygen therapy and the prescription of the antibiotic amoxycillin are the most common treatment procedures. While both are economically cheaper many individuals lack proper diagnosis or are not brought to the physician for treatment until later stages where the condition becomes irreversible. Also, the antibiotics are inexpensive but the total treatment cost cannot be afforded by people below poverty lines. It is always better to protect and prevent rather than treat an individual.
Every child regardless of where she/he is born must get access to vaccines and medicines. The most-affected population of kids live in rural and poor areas thereby indicating that treatment options and access to vaccines are not equally present universally. Campaigns like the World Pneumonia Day are golden opportunities to improve our knowledge, discover more effective ways to prevent spreading of pneumonia and come up with better treatment procedures.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.