This is my first article on childhood diseases, yeah! I got to pull myself together and write it though the thought of having a sick baby makes me want to shed tears. They are small and helpless and as a mother, I can only imagine what they are going through and wish I would take it up on their behalf. When my son had a very bad case of eczema, one of my daily prayers was ‘God please let me have it and give my baby a smooth skin.
With the cold season already here, we as parents are most likely going to overdress our children in a bid to make sure they don’t get pneumonia, something we have either heard from other mums or were told when we were growing up, “Valisha mtoto sweater asipate pneumonia” You baby needs a sweater to avoid pneumonia. According to a doctor I talked to, Pneumonia is prevalent in the coast region because of over dressing. This is what happens, you over dress your baby then they sweat, the clothes become damp and the heat from the body acts as a drier to the clothes and this can be a fertile ground for pneumonia and other bacteria.
So lets talk pneumonia.
Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs caused by any one of several viruses and bacteria. The lungs become inflamed and filled with fluid, causing a cough and making it harder to breathe. A virus or bacteria can cause it.
NB. It is not caused by not wearing a sweater!
In children, especially young children, viral pneumonia is more common.
Children with bacterial pneumonia usually have sudden symptoms – high fever, rapid breathing, and coughing. They don’t want to eat and seem very ill.
They may have trouble breathing (look for flaring nostrils or chest sinking in as they breathe), a faster pulse, and bluish lips or nails. They may seem weak, vomit, or have diarrhoea. Less common symptoms include abdominal pain and a stiff neck.
Viral pneumonia typically starts out like a cold, but symptoms slowly and steadily get worse. Children may have a fever of 38.6 degrees or more, with a worsening cough, wheezing, and rapid breathing. Weakness, vomiting, or diarrhoea can also be symptoms.
Viral pneumonia is usually less severe than bacterial and can’t progress into it – but it can make kids more susceptible to the bacterial form of the illness.
The viruses and bacteria that cause pneumonia are contagious and usually found in fluid from the mouth or nose of someone who’s infected. Illness can spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes on others, by sharing drinking glasses and eating utensils, and when someone touches the used tissues or handkerchiefs of an infected person
Who is at risk?
Anyone can get pneumonia, but some children are more likely to than others. A child will be at greater risk of catching pneumonia if they:
- Are very young
- Are exposed to cigarette smoke
- Have a chronic (long-lasting) condition that affects the lungs such as poorly controlled asthma, Bx (bronchiectasis) or cystic fibrosis
- Are taking a medicine long-term that affects the immune (infection-fighting) system
- Were a very premature baby
- Have feeding problems, such as aspiration (breathing in a bit of feed). These children often cough and / or choke with feeding
- Have other chronic (long-lasting) medical problems
Pneumonia can develop suddenly in a day or two, or more slowly over several days. Sometimes it’s difficult to know if it’s just a bad cold. A cough is often one of the first signs. Take your baby to a doctor if:
- Baby has a bad cough and is coughing up mucus
- Baby seems generally unwell
- Baby has lost her appetite
Some babies may develop a more serious case of pneumonia that may need treatment in hospital. Take your baby to accident and emergency (A&E) if:
- Baby has a worsening cough, which may bring up yellow, brown or blood-stained mucus
- Baby has a fever
- Baby has had less than half of her usual amount of fluids over the past 24 hours
- Baby is wheezing (a coarse, whistling sound as she breathes)
- Baby is breathing in a rapid and shallow way, with the skin between her ribs, above her collarbone, or below her rib cage sucking in with each breath
- Baby has blue lips and fingernails
How can I prevent it?
Keep vaccinations up to date. Ask the doctor for advice if your child has missed any shots.
Practice good personal hygiene. Wash your hands and your child’s hands often to prevent the spread of germs. Regularly wash all the places germs body parts might touch, like the phone, toys, doorknobs, and the refrigerator door handle.
Make yours a smoke-free home. If you or your partner smokes, do it outside and ask guests to do the same. Better yet, ask your doctor about finding a program to help you quit. Studies have shown that children who live around cigarette smoke, even for short periods, get sick more often and are more susceptible to pneumonia, upper respiratory infections, asthma, and ear infections.
The rule of thumb when it comes to keeping your baby warm, add an extra layer than what you as an adult has. Keep your baby warm but do not ever dress them.
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