World Pneumonia Day 2019: How can pneumonia be prevented

On 12 November, the world observes World Pneumonia Day. A respiratory disease, pneumonia, is the biggest killer of children under five across the world.

Myupchar November 12, 2019 07:30:24 IST
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World Pneumonia Day 2019: How can pneumonia be prevented
  • India alone accounted for 70% of the global pneumonia burden in the year 2016

  • The total number of deaths among the under-five population was 1,58,176

  • Every 2 minutes three children will die from pneumonia, the leading infectious cause of child mortality globally, killing more children than diarrhoea and malaria combined

The season is changing, the pollution is as bad as ever and you can’t cross the room without hearing a cough or a sneeze - it’s not surprising then that the focus on respiratory diseases is at an all-time high.

On 12 November, the world observes World Pneumonia Day. As we all know, pneumonia is a respiratory disease - the biggest killer of children under five across the world. India alone accounted for 70% of the global pneumonia burden in the year 2016, the total number of deaths among the under-five population was 1,58,176. 

World Pneumonia Day 2019 How can pneumonia be prevented

Representational image. Image source: Getty Images.

According to an article published in The Lancet, “Every 2 minutes three children will die from pneumonia, the leading infectious cause of child mortality globally, killing more children than diarrhoea and malaria combined.”

Although pneumonia is an easily preventable and treatable disease, there is still a need for more awareness and prevention strategy to save millions of lives. 

This year the theme for World Pneumonia Day is "healthy lungs for all" to raise awareness, promote prevention and treatment and produce action to combat the disease.

What is pneumonia?

Our lungs have small air sacs called alveoli that normally fill up with air while breathing. Pneumonia occurs when a bacteria, virus or fungus attacks and causes infection, the alveoli get filled with pus or fluid. This makes breathing extremely difficult, especially in children. Other symptoms of pneumonia could be cough with pus, fever and chills.

How can pneumonia be prevented?

There are two vaccines available for preventing pneumonia. Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine is recommended for all children below two years of age and all adults above 65. Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine is recommended for all age groups between two years and 65 years.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) partnered with UNICEF to launch the Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Pneumonia and Diarrhoea (GAPPD) in 2009. The aim: to reduce the death rate from pneumonia to less than three children per 1000 live births by the year 2025. The prevention strategy followed under GAPPD is:

  • Prevent children from getting pneumonia by encouraging breastfeeding. If that is not feasible, then recommend adequate complementary feeding.
  • Prevent diseases by properly washing hands with soap multiple times a day, especially before eating.
  • Substantial reduction in household air pollution.
  • Provide immediate medical attention to diseased children by means of antibiotics and oxygen therapy.
  • Prevention from HIV and measles as these diseases make the immune system weak and increase the risk of developing pneumonia later in life.

What are the risk factors for pneumonia?

Pneumonia spreads through the air. Acts like sneezing and coughing in the open air could spread the infection to others. Malnourished or undernourished kids are more susceptible to infections. Living in a crowded home or area also increases the risk of contracting the deadly respiratory disease.

Parental smoking also makes a child more prone to infections from the environment as tobacco smoke diminishes the lung’s capacity to fight against the infection.

Lastly, if someone gets infected by pneumonia-causing organisms, first-hand treatment with oral antibiotics can save their life at a very low cost (these antibiotics are easily accessible in India). Otherwise, in advanced cases, hospitalisation is required for adequate oxygen supply to sustain normal body functions.

Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health. For more information, please read our article on Pneumonia: Causes, Prevention, Treatment.

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