The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) stated that one child dies from pneumonia every 43 seconds around the world, noting that these deaths are totally preventable.
Marking the World Pneumonia Day on November 12, UNICEF said that it is actually the biggest infectious killer of children worldwide; every year, it claims the lives of more than 725,000 children under the age of 5, including around 190,000 newborns, who are particularly vulnerable to infection.
Pneumonia is an acute respiratory infection of the lungs. It doesn’t have one single cause – it can develop from either bacteria, viruses or fungi in the air. The most common symptoms are coughing, trouble breathing and fever.
Pneumonia is contagious and can be spread through airborne particles (a cough or sneeze). It can also be spread through other fluids, like blood during childbirth, or from contaminated surfaces, reported UNICEF.
Air pollution can significantly increase the risk of respiratory infection, including pneumonia. Almost half of all pneumonia deaths are attributable to air pollution.
Outdoor air pollution is a risk to children, especially with growing rates of urbanization in high-burden pneumonia countries. But indoor air pollution – generated by unclean fuels for cooking and heating – also poses a global threat.
The treatment for pneumonia depends on the type of pneumonia. In developing countries, a large number of pneumonia cases is caused by bacteria and can be treated with low cost antibiotics. Yet many children with pneumonia do not receive the antibiotics they need because they lack access to quality health care, according to UNICEF.
Pneumonia can be prevented by increasing protective measures, such as adequate nutrition, and by reducing risk factors like air pollution which makes the lungs more vulnerable to infection and using good hygiene practices.
The agency noted that pneumonia caused by bacteria is easily preventable with vaccines. However, 40 percent of children around the world are not fully protected with the primary vaccine to prevent pneumonia – the Pneumococcal (PCV) vaccine.
Abdul Hamid advised against kissing children, especially newborns, and urged parents to consult a physician immediately after noticing symptoms like cough, fever and breathing difficulty in their children to provide them with the right treatment before the symptoms aggravate.