World Pneumonia Day: An overview of signs, symptoms, causes and treatment

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World Pneumonia Day is observed on November 12th each year around the world. The objective behind this day is to encourage people to spread awareness about the prevention, treatment and generate action to fight the disease. Pneumonia is one of the deadliest diseases amongst children under five years of age, killing around 1.4 million children every year. Hence, we need to understand the disease better.

Signs and Symptoms of Pneumonia

Signs and symptoms of Pneumonia depend on a child’s age and what caused the pneumonia, but can include:

  • Fever
  • Shivering
  • Cough
  • Stuffy nose
  • Fast breathing
  • Breathing with grunting or wheezing sounds
  • Working hard to breathe
  • Vomiting
  • Chest pain
  • Abdominal pain, which often happens because a child is coughing and working hard to breathe
  • Less activity
  • Loss of appetite (in older kids) or poor feeding (in infants), which may lead to dehydration
  • In severe cases, bluish or grey colour of the lips and fingernails

Causes of Pneumonia

Children with pneumonia caused by bacteria usually become sick fairly quickly, starting with a sudden high fever and unusually fast breathing.

Children with pneumonia caused by viruses probably will have symptoms that appear more gradually and are less severe, though wheezing can be more common.

In infants, pneumonia due to Chlamydia may cause conjunctivitis (pinkeye) with only mild illness and no fever. When pneumonia is due to whooping cough (Pertussis), a child may have long coughing spells, turn blue from lack of air, or make the classic “whoop” sound when trying to take a breath.

Treatment of Pneumonia

Doctors usually make a pneumonia diagnosis after a physical examination. They’ll check a child’s appearance, breathing pattern, and vital signs, and listen to the lungs for abnormal sounds. They might order a chest X-ray, blood tests, and (sometimes) bacterial cultures of mucus produced by coughing.

Pneumonia is normally treated with antibiotics taken orally. Antibiotics used depend on the type of pneumonia.

Children might need hospitalisation if the pneumonia is caused by whooping cough, if another kind of bacterial pneumonia is causing a high fever and breathing problems.

Remember, anyone with pneumonia needs to get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids while the body works to fight the infection.

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