Does my child have pneumonia?
My child has been gasping for air and crying all night. He was diagnosed with pneumonia and is on treatment now. Please I need details on this problem in a simple language. Doris H.
Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs that is commonly caused by viruses, bacteria or fungi. These infections are generally spread by direct contact with infected people.Pneumonia is the leading cause of death in children worldwide. Pneumonia kills an estimated 1.2 million children under the age of five years every year - more than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined.
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. Causes Pneumonia is caused by a number of infectious agents, including viruses, bacteria and fungi. The most common are:
1. Streptococcus pneumoniae - the most common cause of bacterial pneumonia in children;
2. Haemophilusinfluenzae type b (Hib) - the second most common cause of bacterial pneumonia;
3. Respiratory syncytial virus is the most common viral cause of pneumonia.
4. In infants infected with HIV, Pneumocystis jiroveci is one of the commonest causes of pneumonia, responsible for at least one quarter of all pneumonia deaths in HIV-infected infants. Transmission Pneumonia can be 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 be spread through blood, especially during and shortly after birth. More research needs to be done on the different pathogens causing pneumonia and the ways they are transmitted, as this has critical importance for treatment and prevention. Presenting features The presenting features of viral and bacterial pneumonia are similar. However, the symptoms of viral pneumonia may be more numerous than the symptoms of bacterial pneumonia.
In children under five years of age, who have cough and/or difficult breathing, with or without fever, 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 (in a healthy person, the chest expands during inhalation). Wheezing is more common in viral infections.
Very severely ill infants may be unable to feed or drink and may also experience unconsciousness, hypothermia and convulsions. Risk factors 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 breastfed.
Pre-existing illnesses, such as symptomatic HIV infections and measles, also increase a child’s risk of contracting pneumonia.
The following environmental factors also increase a child’s susceptibility to pneumonia:
1. Indoor air pollution caused by cooking and heating with biomass fuels (such as wood or dung). 2. Living in crowded homes. 3. Parental smoking. Treatment Pneumonia should be treated with antibiotics. Prevention Preventing pneumonia in children is an essential component of a strategy to reduce child mortality. Immunization against Hib, pneumococcus, measles and whooping cough (pertussis) is the most effective way to prevent pneumonia.Adequate nutrition is key to improving children’s natural defenses, 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.
Addressing environmental factors such as indoor air pollution (by providing affordable clean indoor stoves, for example) and encouraging good hygiene in crowded homes also reduces the number of children who fall ill with pneumonia.