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Understanding pneumonia, a dreaded disease among kids

Pneumonia is an infection that causes inflammation in air sacs of one or both lungs. In India alone, there are 10 million cases per year of pneumonia which spreads very easily.

Published: January 25, 2020 1:18:45 pm
pneumonia, child health (representative image, source: Getty Images)

By Dr Ramani Ranjan

Child safety is one of the primary concerns of any developing nation. Basic things that every child needs are good food, water, sleep, shelter and air. However, poor air quality has become the cause of many dreaded respiratory issues in kids. According to WHO data compiled for thousands of cities, around 90 per cent people breathe air contaminated with pollutants. This causes seven million deaths worldwide like lung cancer, obstructive pulmonary diseases as well as acute respiratory infections like pneumonia.

Pneumonia is an infection that causes inflammation in air sacs of one or both lungs. In India alone, there are 10 million cases per year of pneumonia which spreads very easily. The infection is extremely dangerous to infants, children and people over the age of 65.

Causes of pneumonia

Pneumonia is passed on through coughing or sneezing as well as tangible objects that absorb pneumonia inducing germs. It is mainly caused by bacterial, viral or fungal infections with the germs settling in tiny air sacs called alveoli. The germs multiply causing the lungs to inflame and eventually fill them with fluid or puss causing pneumonia.

Types of pneumonia

Fungal Pneumonia: It is caused by coccidiodides fungus with symptoms like fever, coughing and chest pain.

Aspiration Pneumonia: It is caused when liquid or food enter in airways instead of the food pipe.

Bacterial Pneumonia: It is caused by bacteria like Streptococcus pneumonia, klebsiella, etc.

Viral Pneumonia: It can be caused by influenza flu types A and B as well as respiratory synctial virus.

Hospital acquired pneumonia: It occurs when patients in the hospital are exposed to respirators or breathing machines that carry pneumonia inducing germs.

Common symptoms of pneumonia in adults

· Cough

· Rusty or green phlegm or sputum

· Fever

· Shortness of breath

· Shaking chills

· Sharp chest pain

· Fast heartbeat

Other symptoms include fatigue and weakness, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, sweating, headache and muscle pain.

Common symptoms of pneumonia in children

· Difficulty breathing

· Not feeding properly

· Coughing

· Fever

· Irritability

· Dehydration

Who is at risk?

Pneumonia can affect almost anyone at any point of time. However, there are those who are at a greater risk than others. They are people under the age of five or over the age of 65, people who smoke tobacco or consume alcohol, those who have a weakened or impaired immune system, malnourished individuals as well as people who have been recently hospitalised or recovered from influenza infection.

Read| Effects of air pollution on kids: A parental guide

Prevention

Vaccines available to treat pneumonia in both children and adults are pneumococcoal conjugate vaccine and pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine. Children are usually immunised with PCV13 where people at greater risk of pneumococcal infections are recommended PPSV23, which comprises those with diabetes, chronic heart and lung or kidney disease, people who consume large amount of alcohol and tobacco as well those without a spleen.

Other prevention

Vaccines are not enough as the germs transmitting pneumonia spread easily and are found everywhere, which is why doctors recommend exercising five days a week, regular handwashing, covering the mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing, not consuming tobacco and eating healthy.

(The writer is Consultant Neonatologist & Paediatrician, Motherhood Hospital, Noida.)

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