LAHORE - Medical experts have advised precautionary measures to save children under five from pneumonia.

“Pneumonia cases have increased considerably with the onset of winter. Extra care should be given to children having less immunity. Vaccination, mother feed, balanced diet, proper hygiene and clean water are key to save kids from falling prey to deadly Pneumonia”, said consultant pediatrician at Jinnah Hospital Dr Khurram Shehzad.

“Children need special care during weather transition period. Cold provides conducive atmosphere to microorganism and kids are soft target due to less immunity. Measures should be taken to save kids from Pneumonia. Vaccination provides 50 per cent shield and other measures the remaining one to keep Pneumonia away. Proper nutrition and hygiene are necessary for the health of kids under five”, said consultant pediatrician at Hameed Latif Hospital, Dr Khuzaima.

He stressed the need of contacting qualified doctor even in case of persistent flu and irregular breathing instead of going to quacks or self medication.

“Early diagnosis and proper treatment is vital to avoid further complications. People should avoid going to quacks or using own formula as it could lead to fatal complications”, Dr Khuzaima said.  

Around 92,000 children under-five-years of age die of Pneumonia annually in Pakistan despite availability of free vaccination under EPI.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates, Pneumonia accounts for 16% of the total child deaths globally, making it the leading killer of children less than five years of age. Globally, Pneumonia accounts for more than 920,000 deaths. Pakistan is among top five countries which account for 99% of childhood Pneumonia cases.

Pneumonia is a form acute respiratory infection that affects the lungs. When an individual has Pneumonia, the alveoli (small sacs in lungs which fill with air when a healthy person breathes) are filled with pus and fluid, which makes breathing painful and limits oxygen intake.

Children under five with severe cases of pneumonia may struggle to breathe, with their chests moving in or retracting during inhalation (known as ‘lower chest wall in drawing’). Infants may suffer convulsions, unconsciousness, hypothermia, lethargy and feeding problem.

Pneumonia is caused by a number of infectious agents, including viruses, bacteria and fungi. The most common causes of pneumonia amongst children include: Streptococcus pneumoniae and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib).

“Vaccines against pneumococcus, Hib, pertussis and measles can prevent a significant portion of Pneumonia cases from ever occurring”, said leading family physician Dr Abdul Rauf. 

Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (pneumonia vaccine) was introduced in Pakistan’s EPI program in 2012, and this achievement made Pakistan to become the first South Asian country to include PCV in its national immunization program.

“Preventing Pneumonia averts treatment costs; other loses due to illness, and allows children to become healthy, productive adults. Vaccines hold promise of saving millions of children from dying of Pneumonia. Parents participation for immunization and increase in vaccine coverage would also save 2.9 million lives and prevent 52 million cases of illness”, Dr Rauf said.