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How to protect yourself from pneumonia

Pneumonia is one of the most preventable diseases. However, according to the World Health Organization, one child in the world dies from this infection every 20 seconds. Therefore, on Pneumonia Day, we remind you of the seriousness of this disease and offer simple steps that each of us can take to prevent the development of pneumonia in our children or ourselves.

What is pneumonia?

Pneumonia is an acute infectious inflammation of the lungs, which is localized primarily in the air sacs called alveoli. In a healthy person, the alveoli are filled with air and function normally during breathing. And in a patient with pneumonia, mucus and fluid accumulate in the alveoli, which cause pain when breathing and limit the supply of oxygen. The causative agents of pneumonia are most often bacteria or viruses, which, as a rule, are transmitted by direct contact with infected people.

Today, pneumonia is considered the most common and serious infectious cause of high mortality in young children worldwide. According to WHO, pneumonia is the cause of death of about 16% of children under 5 years of age worldwide.

Causes of pneumonia

Most often, the causative agents of infectious pneumonia are bacteria, viruses, fungi, and some of the simplest microorganisms.

Thus, the most common causes of bacterial pneumonia in children are pneumococci (Streptococcus Pneumoniae) and Haemophilus Influenzae Type B (Hib). And the most common cause of viral pneumonia is respiratory syncytial virus infection (acute viral disease from the SARS group).

Pneumonia caused by fungi of the Pneumocystis Jiroveci type (the causative agents of pneumocystosis) is not typical, but most often cases of infection are recorded in immunocompromised patients with HIV/AIDS, especially in children. Yes, these microorganisms cause at least a quarter of pneumonia deaths among HIV-infected children.

There are different ways of spreading pneumonia pathogens. Viruses and bacteria that are usually localized in a child's nose or throat can enter the lungs when inhaled. In addition, these pathogens are spread by airborne droplets when coughing or sneezing.

Infectious pneumonia can also be transmitted through blood, especially for babies during childbirth or immediately after birth.

Symptoms of pneumonia

Most of the symptoms of viral and bacterial forms of pneumonia are similar in general, but a patient with viral pneumonia may show a greater number of various signs.

The following symptoms of pneumonia are most often manifested:

☛ cough,

☛ difficulty breathing,

☛ high body temperature (39°),

☛ rapid breathing,

☛ retraction of the chest, when the lower part of the chest collapses during inhalation (in a healthy person, the chest expands during inhalation),

☛ wheezing while breathing (more often with viral infections).

Pneumonia does not always present absolutely all of the above symptoms.

Sometimes with pneumonia, it is difficult for infants to swallow food or drink, their body temperature may drop, convulsions may appear, and sometimes children may even faint.

Pneumonia in children: who is at risk

Most often, the body's defenses overcome the infection, and pneumonia does not develop. But this applies to healthy children. But children with certain disorders and a weakened immune system belong to the group of high risk of developing pneumonia and its complications. This is especially true for infants who do not receive their mother's milk, since the weakening of the child's immune system is often associated with insufficient or unbalanced nutrition.

In addition, the risk group includes children who are infected with HIV or have had measles.

According to WHO, a child's risk of contracting pneumonia also increases under the influence of the following environmental factors:

☛ indoor air pollution as a result of cooking and using biofuel for heating;

☛ living in overcrowded houses;

☛ parental smoking.

Treatment of pneumonia

Treating pneumonia on your own is extremely dangerous. If you develop symptoms, see your doctor. Only a specialist can confirm or deny your fears, make a diagnosis and prescribe the appropriate treatment.

Prevention of pneumonia

Prevention of pneumonia in children is one of the main elements of the strategy to reduce the level of child mortality worldwide, WHO emphasizes.

Scheduled vaccination is recognized as the most effective method of preventing pneumonia. In Ukraine, high-quality and effective vaccines against Hib infection (hemophilic bacillus type B), measles (as part of the combined KPK vaccine against measles, mumps, rubella) and pertussis (as part of the combined AKDP vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis) are purchased in Ukraine with the funds of the state budget ). Children receive vaccinations against these diseases free of charge. There are enough vaccines in all regions of the country.

Prevention of pneumonia in children and adults also involves strengthening immunity. First of all, make sure that the diet is balanced and sufficient. This is especially important for newborns: breastfeeding during the first 6 months of life will strengthen the baby's immunity.

Take care of cleanliness in the house, ventilate the premises and quit smoking or at least do not smoke indoors and when children are nearby.

Source: Ministry of Health of Ukraine

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