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Pneumonia: A Neglected Disease Responsible for Most Infant Deaths

Binish Ahmed

Despite being treatable, pneumonia causes 17% of infant deaths in India.

Despite being treatable, pneumonia causes 17% of infant deaths in India. Also, a study conducted by ‘Save the Children’ NGO reported that by 2030 India will be amongst the top 4 countries in the world that will have the highest pneumonia-related deaths. Thus, this illness poses a major health burden on our country.

What is pneumonia?

Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs caused by viruses and bacteria that can affect anyone. The infection can inflame one or both of your lungs’ air sacs. The air sacs may also be filled with pus or fluid that leads to symptoms such as cough, fever, shallow breathing and shortness of breath.

How do you know if your baby has pneumonia?

Infants do not generally display any typical signs of pneumonia infection. It may be difficult for parents to identify the signs since babies cannot communicate how they feel. However, one must be aware of their child is exhibiting these out-of-ordinary symptoms:

  •       High fever
  •       Difficulty in breathing or fast breathing
  •       Looking pale or lethargic
  •       Crying more than usual
  •       Not eating well
  •       Cough
  •       Being irritable
  •       Flaring of nostrils while breathing

 Consulting the doctor

It is best to consult a doctor right away if you notice any of the above-mentioned symptoms. If treatment is not sought at the right time, it can prove to be fatal. The doctor might conduct a physical exam or an X-ray to diagnose this illness. Based on the diagnosis, the doctor will devise a treatment plan. It may take at least 4-6 weeks for pneumonia to clear up completely. Parents must ensure that their child gets lots of downtime during recovery.

Pneumonia caused by air pollution

WHO says that nearly 1 million children under 5 die from pneumonia every year and half of those deaths are linked to air pollution. Indoor, outdoor and second-hand smoke are ways children contract this disease. Breathing in such an environment for a long time reduces lung function, triggers asthma and stunts brain development. Air pollution can also set the stage for problems like chronic respiratory illnesses, cardiovascular diseases, stroke, and even cancer.

 Ways to protect & prevent

  •       Promote exclusive breastfeeding in a newborn
  •       Complementary feeding can also be promoted
  •       Plenty of rest is a must
  •       Keep your child hydrated (6+months)
  •       Install a cool-mist humidifier in your child’s room
  •       Provide vaccination against measles, whooping cough, diphtheria, Hib, etc
  •       Ensure that your child is always wearing a mask when outdoors

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