Pneumonia accounts for 15% of children deaths globally: WHO

ISLAMABAD, Dec 29 (APP):World Health Organization (WHO) has claimed that pneumonia accounts for 15% of all deaths of children under five years old, killing 808,694 only in year 2017 across the globe.

According to WHO report, pneumonia is the single largest infectious cause of death in children worldwide affecting children and families everywhere, but is most prevalent in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. It said that addressing environmental factors such as indoor air pollution and encouraging good hygiene in crowded homes also reduces the number of children who fall ill with pneumonia.

It said that adequate nutrition is key to improving children’s natural defences, starting with exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life. In addition to being effective in preventing pneumonia, it also helps to reduce the length of the illness if a child does become ill.

The WHO said that preventing pneumonia in children is an essential component of a strategy to reduce child mortality. It added immunization against hib, pneumococcus, measles and whooping cough or pertussis is the most effective way to prevent pneumonia.

It added that Pneumonia should be treated with antibiotics. Most cases of pneumonia require oral antibiotics, which are often prescribed at a health centre. These cases can also be diagnosed and treated with inexpensive oral antibiotics at the community level by trained community health workers. Hospitalization is recommended only for severe cases of pneumonia, it added.

Dr Wasim Khawaja from Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) said that pneumonia can be caused by viruses, bacteria, or fungi while it can be prevented by immunization, adequate nutrition, and by addressing environmental factors.

He said pneumonia caused by bacteria can be treated with antibiotics, but only one third of children with pneumonia receive the antibiotics they need. He said pneumonia is a form of acute respiratory infection that affects the lungs. The lungs are made up of small sacs called alveoli, which fill with air when a healthy person breathes. When an individual has pneumonia, the alveoli are filled with pus and fluid, which makes breathing painful and limits oxygen intake.

Dr Sharif Astori from Federal Government Polyclinic (FGPC) hospital said pneumonia can spread in a number of ways. The viruses and bacteria that are commonly found in a child’s nose or throat, can infect the lungs if they are inhaled. They may also spread via air-borne droplets from a cough or sneeze. In addition, pneumonia may spread through blood, especially during and shortly after birth, he added.
He said more research needs to be done on the different pathogens causing pneumonia and the ways they are transmitted, as this is of critical importance for treatment and prevention. He said children can also get this disease due to indoor air pollution caused by cooking and heating with biomass fuels like wood or dung, living in crowded homes and parental smoking. He said features of viral and bacterial pneumonia are similar however, the symptoms of viral pneumonia may be more numerous than the symptoms of bacterial pneumonia.

He said symptoms of disease in children including cough or difficult breathing, with or without fever. He added that pneumonia is diagnosed by the presence of either fast breathing or lower chest wall in drawing where their chest moves in or retracts during inhalation while wheezing is more common in viral infections. He added that very severely ill infants may be unable to feed or drink and may also experience unconsciousness, hypothermia and convulsions.

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