Pneumonia

Pneumonia
Highlights

Children\'s Day falls two days after World Pneumonia Day.The chilling fact is that more than 1.7 lakh children in India under the age of 5 have lost their lives to pneumonia this year alone.

The scrouge that's killing India's children and what you can do to tackle it

Children's Day falls two days after World Pneumonia Day.The chilling fact is that more than 1.7 lakh children in India under the age of 5 have lost their lives to pneumonia this year alone.

More than 9.5 lakh children world-wide have lost their lives to a disease that can easily be prevented and treated.

India's challenge

India isn't alone in facing this scourge, but it does have the highest disease burden in the world. The international protocol - as recommended by the Integrated Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Pneumonia and Diarrhoea recommends a three-pronged approach.

As you can guess, for India's non- "1 per cent", even these simple measures are often out of reach. Lack of awareness combined with lack of access is one of the major challenges the country faces. Vaccines are available in the private sector for two of the most common causes of severe pneumonia - Hib and the pneumococcus bacteria - and doctors routinely recommend these for children.

For those who can't afford private healthcare, there is some good news. The pentavalent vaccine that is now part of the universal immunization program (in 9 states already with plans for a national scale-up) protects against HiB, Diphtheria, Pertussis, Tetanus and Hepatitis B. As for the vaccine available against "pneumococcus" (streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria) - Back in 2008, the government's National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation recommended a phased introduction starting with a pilot introduction in a "high-mortality" state.

The government last year zeroed in on pneumonia and diarrhoea as diseases that need to be addressed, to tackle child mortality and improve the quality of life. That decision offers the glimmer of hope, ahead of Children's Day, this year.

Symptoms of pneumonia: what to watch out for

Cough: Persistent and severe cough could be due to a respiratory tract infection or pneumonia

Fast breathing / Difficulty Breathing: Do check immediately with your doctor if your child displays trouble breathing Fever/ Chills Chest -in-drawing Poor feeding, fatigue, irritability, poor sleeping

(*Do note that it's not just children that suffer pneumonia. Older adults are also susceptible) FAQ'S

What are some of the biggest killers of India's children?

Pneumonia, diarrhoea and complications in newborns account for most deaths of children under the age of five, in India. Diarrhoea and pneumonia also weaken children's bodies and immune systems, making them susceptible to more infections.

What causes pneumonia?

Pneumonia is caused by a number of infectious agents including viruses, bacteria and fungi. Two of the most common causes of severe pneumonia are Streptococcus pneumoniae and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib).

What causes diarrhoea?

Diarrhoea in children is caused by infections from a range of viruses, bacteria and parasites. Rotavirus is the leading cause of severe diarrhoea. The pathogens commonly spread through unsafe drinking water, poor hygiene, and sanitation, unclean feeding practices and person-to-person contact. If left untreated, severe diarrhoea can lead to dehydration, even death.

What are treatment and prevention options?

Doctors generally prescribe antibiotics to treat pneumonia, depending on the severity of the infection. In terms of prevention, they recommend breastfeeding, tackling indoor air pollution, and vaccines - that are widely used and available in the private sector. The government has made a move in the public sector as well. The pentavalent vaccine which is now part of the Universal Immunization Program (rolled out in 9 states already) protects against HiB, as well as DPT (diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus) and Hepatitis B.

There is also a vaccine available against pneumococcus. Back in 2008, the government's National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization recommended a phased introduction of this vaccine into the country's immunization program, starting with a pilot introduction in a "high-mortality" state.

For diarrhoea, the "magic bullet" in terms of treatment is ORS (oral rehydration solution) and zinc. Key preventive measures include hand-washing, sanitation, clean drinking water, and vaccine against rotavirus, which the government has announced as part of the national immunization program. Spreading awareness is also, of course, key.

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