Does my child have pneu­mo­nia?

Daily Trust - - HEALTH -

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.

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