Pneumonia is a type of acute infection of lungs, leading to pus and fluid accumulation within the respiratory sacs of the lungs known as alveoli. This filling of the pus and fluid makes breathing difficult and painful and hinders in oxygen exchange.
It is quite common in children especially under the age of 5years and the term “Peadriatic Pneumonia” is used to describe this acute infection in toddlers.
According to WHO, Pneumonia accounts for 16% of deaths in children under the age of 5 years worldwide thus making it the most common cause of death in this age group. As per the data collected by UNICEF, pneumonia kills 3million children annually. It remains the leading cause of infant morbidity and mortality in Pakistan as well killing approximately 90,000 children every year.
According to Dr Jalal Akbar, a member of Pakistan Peadriatic Association; As compared to all other diseases, Pneumonia causes the largest number of children deaths in the country every year. Despite the fact that it is preventable in 90 percent of the cases through vaccination. Even dengue and Naegleria fowleri have not caused more than 100 deaths combined in a year.”
Pneumonia is an infectious disease and can be caused by bacteria, virus or fungi. Common bacterial causes of Pneumonia include Group B streptococci, Listeria Monocytogenes, Hemophilus influenza and Ecoli. Group B streptococci are specifically more common in newborns being transmitted to them in utero. Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is the most common viral cause of Pneumonia. Mycoplasma pneumonia is more common in older children and adolescents.
Pneumonia can spread through a number of ways, airborne droplets from cough and sneeze being the most common mode of transmission. Moreover the bacteria and viruses can be directly inhaled in the lungs by the toddlers.
Children under the age of 2 years having weak immune system due to malnutrition, undernourishment. Especially those not exclusively breastfed are at a continuous risk of contracting this deadly disease.
According to WHO, “While most healthy children can fight the infection with their natural defenses, children whose immune systems are compromised are at higher risk of developing pneumonia .A child’s immune system may be weakened by malnutrition or undernourishment, especially in infants who are not exclusively breast-fed.”
Signs and Symptoms
The classical features of bacterial or viral pneumonia include:
Difficulty in breathing.
Others symptoms include lower chest in drawing (inward movement of chest), wheezing or stridor (noisy breathing), lethargy, nasal congestion, chills and rigors. Severe cases may lead to hypothermia, failure to thrive, unable to eat or drink seizures, coma and death. Flaring of the nostrils while breathing is a very important sign of Oneumonia signaling immediate checkup by a doctor and ruling out of presence of Pneumonia. Moreover X-ray findings can confirm the diagnosis.
The WHO and UNICEF integrated global plan against pneumonia includes protection, prevention and treatment of Pneumonia in children. Protection and prevention help prevent the children from getting the infection and decrease the spread of the disease. It is possible to achieve this by encouraging breastfeeding, better and well ventilated homes, hand washing and vaccination.
Dr.Mehnaz General Secretary of Pakistan Peadriatic association termed Pneumonia as Public health issue of Pakistan and stated;
“Pneumonia was preventable through vaccine and its vaccine was included in the Expanded Programme of Immunization (EPI) and children were freely vaccinated against the disease in the country. Unfortunately, the ratio of routine immunization is only 50 percent, which means that most of the children are left without vaccination against the lethal disease. If a child is once infected, he would hardly survive of the disease.”
Treatment of Pneumonia includes antibiotics and the choice of drug is amoxicillin. Moreover adequate hydration, replenishment of electrolytes with ORS or Peadialyte and regular nebulization may also help in recovery. Severe cases may need hospitalization and ventilator support. In Pakistan Pneumonia can be classified as mild, moderate and severe using IMNCI program by WHO. For better treatment, it is always good to book an appointment and visit a nearby pediatrician or medical specialist.