Pneumonia is a life-threatening infection, even for adults, not to mention its deadly impact among children under the age of five.
Consultant Paediatrician, Dr. Rotimi Adesanya, says pneumonia is caused by a variety of germs, such as viruses, bacteria, fungi, or parasites. The lungs of someone infected with pneumonia become inflamed and filled with fluid, making it remarkably difficult for them to work properly.
Experts warn that cough is the most common symptom of pneumonia in infants, along with abnormally rapid breathing and abnormally low concentration of oxygen in the blood.
Adesanya adds that symptoms of pneumonia depend on the age of the child and on what caused the infection. However, in general, he says, symptoms can include fever, shaking chills, cough, stuffy nose, very fast breathing (in some cases, this is the only symptom) and breathing with grunting or wheezing sounds.
“Sometimes, the child may work hard to breathe and he may vomit. The child may also have chest pain, abdominal pain, loss of appetite (in older kids) or poor feeding (in infants). This may result in dehydration.
“Again, in extreme cases, the lips may become bluish, while the fingernails may become gray. No one should wait for these extremities before they take the child to see the doctor,” the physician counsels.
Researchers say that Streptococcus pneumoniae is by far the most common bacterial pathogen in infants aged one to three months.
Pneumonia is a deadly infection and it should not be treated at home. Indeed, the World Health Organisation warns that the infection kills about 922,000 children under the age of five globally every year, translating into nearly 2,500 children daily.
The WHO calls it “the leading cause of death among children under the age of five.”
Physicians say that infection with pneumonia was extremely dangerous in past generations. However, today, most children can recover from pneumococcal infections easily if they receive proper medical attention.
It is often said that ‘your health is in your hands.’ While this statement may be figurative, it is also literal, as maintenance of good hygiene is one way of preventing pneumonia. So, always wash your hands before you touch any food item, and always use a tissue paper when you cough or sneeze and dispose of it immediately.
Adesanya also counsels parents to obtain the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine for their infants.
“A baby receives the first dose of PVC at two months old. Also, a series of doses needs to be given at two, four, six, and 12 to 15 months of age, at the same time that children receive other childhood vaccines.
“Again, children between the age of two and five years who have a high risk of developing an invasive pneumococcal infection must receive the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine. These include children with sickle cell anemia, heart disease, lung disease, kidney failure, damaged or no spleen, organ transplant and children living with HIV,” he says.
Again, experts at the Women Deliver 2016, which held in Copenhagen, Denmark in May, said that Royal Philips and Grand Challenges Canada have announced the signing of agreement to scale up innovation that will improve the diagnosis of childhood pneumonia in low resource countries.
Dr. Peter Singer, the CEO of Grand Challenges Canada, which is funded by the Canadian government, notes that the collaboration with Royal Philips to scale the manufacturing and distribution of the Philips Children’s Automated Respiration Monitor (also called ChARM), will help in preventing and treating this deadly infection in low-resource countries.
According to Dr. Maarten van Herpen, the Head of Philips Africa Innovation Hub, which is committed to improving people’s health, “One important aspect in diagnosing pneumonia is monitoring a child’s breathing rate. Equitable innovation strategies can help to drive sustainable solutions to improve the quality of life for all.”
Herpen says when strapped around a child’s chest without touching the skin, the ChARM works by delivering an accurate and reliable breathing rate measurement. It converts chest movements detected by accelerometers into an accurate breathing count, using specially developed algorithms.
“The monitor not only provides quantitative feedback, but also qualitative feedback to the health care provider, based on the World Health Organisation’s Integrated Management of Childhood Illness guidelines, to diagnose fast breathing rates, which is one of the key vital signs to diagnosing pneumonia,” Herpen adds.
He says the device uses a long-lasting battery that is power-independent and suitable for areas without electricity.
He adds that ChARM has been designed to be intuitive and easy to use, and is suitable for use by health care providers with low literacy level.
It is expected to be commercially available from the third quarter of 2016.
The bottom line: If you suspect that your child has pneumonia, take him/her to the hospital without delay.
Source: The Punch