How to Prevent Pneumonia in Children?
Can pneumonia be prevented? Yes, it can be prevented. Every year, more than 700,000 children under the age of 5, including infants, die due to pneumonia, and almost all of these deaths are preventable. Pneumonia is a severe health condition of the lung that affects all age groups but is more prevalent in children, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems. Causes of pneumonia in children include types of viruses (RSV, influenza), bacteria (S. pneumoniae), or fungi (Pneumocystis jirovecii) and can range from mild to severe.
Complications of pneumonia in children can lead to dehydration, bacteremia (spread of bacteria from the lungs to the bloodstream), pleural effusion (fluid buildup between the lungs and chest wall), respiratory failure, and death in severe cases. Nevertheless, there are several preventive measures that can help prevent pneumonia effectively. This article aims to discuss various ways to prevent pneumonia.
Risk factors of pneumonia in children
Children are at higher risk of getting pneumonia due to certain risk factors. Some of the risk factors for pneumonia include:
- Low socioeconomic backgrounds: Pneumonia is more prevalent among children coming from low socioeconomic backgrounds.
- Low immunity: While healthy children can typically overcome the infection with their natural defences, those with compromised immune systems due to factors such as malnutrition or inadequate nutrition, particularly among infants who are not exclusively breastfed, are at greater risk.
- Pre-existing medical conditions: Children with pre-existing conditions like symptomatic HIV and measles are also more susceptible to pneumonia.
- Environmental factors: Environmental factors like indoor air pollution resulting from the use of heating fuels like wood or dung, living in overcrowded homes, and parental smoking can increase the likelihood of a child contracting pneumonia.
Measures to reduce the risk of pneumonia:
Following are some of the preventive measures one can take to reduce the risk of pneumonia in their children:
Get your child vaccinated.
One of the most efficient strategies to avoid pneumonia is vaccination. It can protect children from various forms of pneumonia, including bacterial pneumococcal pneumonia. Vaccines are recommended by healthcare practitioners for children under the age of two, children aged 2-5 with particular health concerns, adults aged 19-64 with chronic health issues or risk factors, and all adults aged 65 and over.
Good hygiene practises
It is essential to practise good hygiene in order to avoid pneumonia. Hand washing is important for germ prevention, especially after coughing, blowing the nose, using the restroom, diapering, and before preparing or eating food. While coughing or sneezing, avoid touching the face, especially the mouth and nose, and cover the mouth and nose with a tissue. If a tissue is not available, cough or sneeze into your elbow or sleeve instead.
Breast milk includes antibodies that fight against infections; therefore, breastfeeding infants and toddlers can help prevent pneumonia in newborns. Babies who are exclusively breastfed for the first six months have a lower chance of developing pneumonia and other infections.
Boost the Immune System
A healthy immune system can aid in the prevention of pneumonia. Ensure that the child eats a good diet and gets enough nutrition to help their immune system. Some supplements can also help to strengthen the immune system. It is suggested to follow national immunisation requirements, which include immunisations against Hib, pneumococci, measles, and whooping cough.
A germ-free home environment can help reduce the spread of diseases that cause pneumonia. With a disinfectant, clean regularly touched areas such as doorknobs, light switches, and countertops on a regular basis. To kill germs, wash clothing, bedding, and towels in hot water on a regular basis. Use a humidifier to keep the air moist and prevent dry, irritated airways that are more prone to infection.
Prompt medical attention
If the newborn shows symptoms of pneumonia, one should seek immediate medical attention. Symptoms of pneumonia in children are cough, fever, sweating, breathlessness, chest pain, loss of appetite, and irritability or restlessness. The doctor may prescribe oral antibiotics or recommend hospitalisation in severe cases. If the child is at high risk of contracting pneumonia (a child with a weakened immune system or a chronic illness), talk to the healthcare provider about prevention and symptom recognition.
Lower Indoor Air Pollution
Indoor air pollution has been linked to respiratory illnesses, including pneumonia. To prevent indoor air pollution, use clean cooking fuels such as propane or electricity and make sure your home has adequate ventilation. One must avoid exposure to cigarette smoke, particularly if there is a child with a respiratory condition or a weakened immune system at home.
To sum up, preventing pneumonia is possible by following simple yet effective procedures that can significantly minimise the risk of getting infected. By practising the above-mentioned preventive tips, one can keep the danger signs of pneumonia at bay. Furthermore, it is critical to be aware of any underlying health concerns and to take steps to successfully manage them.
If your kid exhibits any of the symptoms of pneumonia, get medical assistance immediately to avoid complications. Remember, prevention is always better than cure, and by taking the necessary precautions, you can protect yourself and your loved ones from the potentially severe consequences of pneumonia.
- Pneumonia, Mayo Clinic: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pneumonia/symptoms-causes/syc-20354204
- Viruses Increasingly Behind Child Pneumonia Cases, WebMD: https://www.webmd.com/children/news/20150225/viruses-increasingly-behind-child-pneumonia-cases
- Everything You Need to Know About Pneumonia, Healthline: https://www.healthline.com/health/pneumonia
About Author –
Dr. Sindhura Munukuntla, Consultant Paediatrician, Yashoda Hospital, Hyderabad
D.Ch, DNB (Pediatrics)