Pneumonia kills about 2 children every single minute! EVERY SINGLE MINUTE!! Pneumonia can be caused by viruses, bacteria, or fungi. Pneumonia can be prevented. Pneumonia can be treated with antibiotics.
What is pneumonia?
In very simple terms, Pneumonia is a form of acute disease that affects the lungs. The lungs are made up of small sacs called alveoli, which fill with air when a healthy person breathes. When a child has pneumonia, the alveoli are filled with pus and fluid, which makes breathing difficult and limits the amount of oxygen getting into the lungs. Oxygen is crucial for survival!
What causes pneumonia?
Microorganisms referred to as bacteria, viruses and also fungi in special populations.
What is the difference between pneumonia and covid 19?
Both of them are pneumonias, current and ongoing data shows that adults are suffering more symptomatically due to covid 19 pneumonia than children. When children develop symptoms, their clinical course is milder. The Kenya’s Ministry of health has reported that over 1000 children have contracted the virus five months since the pandemic was first reported in Kenya with five deaths related to covid 19 reported.
What are the symptoms of pneumonia?
Pneumonia in children can present with coughing, fast breathing, laboured breathing and fever. Other symptoms include inability to feed, change in colour of mucous membrane as well having head bobbing among other features your doctor will look out for.
Is it safe to take my child to hospital if they have the symptoms of pneumonia?
Yes, ensure you protect yourself, your child and your doctor by following the Ministry of Health COVID-19 protocols.
Why can’t I just go to the chemist and buy medicine over the counter?
You need a doctor to assess the severity and likely cause of your child’s cough and cold symptoms.
Antibiotic resistance is on the rise and every time you buy an antibiotic without a prescription you risk a generation not benefiting from that antibiotic.
What about cough syrups and piriton/cetirizine (commonly used antihistamine)?
Remember that coughing is a body’s own way of getting rid of foreign material. It’s okay if your child coughs. Many cough mixtures have up to 4-15% brandy! Yes you read that right and the alcohol can make your child sleepy or inactive especially if given in overdose. Similarly, there are other components of the cough syrups that are not safe to children in general. Hence we do not recommend these to children under the age of 12 years.
Does my doctor need to run some tests to diagnose my child with pneumonia??
NO!! This is one of the condition where doctors make a diagnosis based on clinical examination findings. Not doing lab tests is not equal to not doing anything for the child.
How can we prevent pneumonia?
1.Breast is Best!! I can not overemphasise the goodness of the white gold ,it is literally the greatest adjunct to medicine in the new world.Based on research we advise that you breastfeed exclusively for 6 months and continue to atleast 2 years.
2.Vaccination prevents the serious forms of pneumoia. Let thy child get that jab as recommended!!
3.Hand washing with soap and water.
4.Teach your children proper coughing etiquette especially when they are at a mingling age.
5.Ensure your chilid gets adequate treatment if they have a cough with fever and any sign of laboured breathing.
Written by: Dr Aura, MbChB, Paediatric Resident
Reviewed by: Dr. Justus Simba