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How To Deal With Pneumonia

Published by Guardian on Mon, 06 Feb 2012

AJOKE stepped out of the kitchen and towards the bed to check on Bola. Tiptoeing carefully as she crept across the cement floor of the illegal structure they lived in, she whispered a short prayer.Bola had been ill for about a week and last night, Ajoke kept vigil over her throughout her night-long bouts of wheezing, shivering and coughing. She could only hope that Bola had finally slept and her temperature had perhaps miraculously returned to normal. But her discovery stunned her'Bola looked terrible, her tiny face contorted in discomfort, her body was shaking as it battled a fever, the kind of which Ajoke had never seen in a child. Her breathing was rapid and shallow.As Ajoke held her two-year-old daughter in hand, the severity of whatever illness was ravaging Bola's fragile little body became more apparent to her.The government hospital, which was the only hospital near the vicinity, was more than 20 minutes away by foot. The thought of losing her first and only child instantly drove her into frenzy, but she had hardly started screaming for help when Bola started convulsing.In a few hours, pneumonia's deathly pangs had squeezed life out of her baby's lungs'Pneumonia is an Acute Respiratory Infection (ARI) which results in the inflammation of the lung tissues on one or both sides of the chest.Though less popular than malaria, HIV/AIDS or tuberculosis, pneumonia is, however, thesingle largest cause of death in children worldwide.Every year, it kills an estimated 1.4 million children under the age of five years, accounting for 18 per cent of all deaths of such children globally.It is said to be responsible for more deaths of children under the age of 15 than AIDS and malaria combined.In Nigeria alone, an estimated 700,000 infants are affected by the ailment every year and about 200,000 of them are said to die as a result.Viruses, bacteria and fungi have been implicated as causes of pneumonia, the most common of which are Streptococcus pneumonia '- the most common cause of bacterial pneumonia in children; Haemophilus influenzaetype b (Hib); Respiratory syncytial virus, which is the most common viral cause of pneumonia;and Pneumocystis jiroveci, one of the commonest causes of pneumonia, responsible for at least one quarter of all pneumonia deaths in HIV-infected infants.Bacteria and viruses living in your nose, sinuses or mouth can spread to the lungs or some of these germs are breathed directly into the lungs.Inhaling food, liquids, vomit or fluids from the mouth into the lungs may also cause aspiration pneumonia.The big question on your mind now may be: does it have a cure' Pneumonia can be treated, the outcome though cannot be predicted, as it is dependent on many factors.Children (especially when chronically ill); people with weak immune systems, such asHIV-infectedindividuals; the weak and elderly; people who have had their spleen removed; alcoholics; those suffering from cerebral palsy, smoker's lungsanddiabetics, chronic lung disease (COPD), bronchiectasis, cystic fibrosis; cigarette smokers, those having difficulty swallowing (due to stroke, dementia, Parkinson's disease, or other neurological conditions); people with impaired consciousness (loss of brain function due to dementia, stroke or other neurologic conditions); people suffering from heart disease; laryngitis orflu; liver cirrhosis or diabetes mellitus; and those recovering from recent surgery or trauma could suffer more severe form of pneumonia.Cough, fever (which may be mild or high), shaking chills and shortness of breath (may only occur when you climb stairs) are common with pneumonia.Older people might exhibit confusion, excess sweating and clammy skin, headache, loss of appetite, fatigue and sharp or stabbing chest pain that gets worse while taking deep breaths, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, sweating and dusky or purplish skin colour (cyanosis) from poorly oxygenated blood.Prevention is always cheaper than cure. The good news is that a number of vaccines have been found to be quite effective in preventing the disease.Hib vaccineprevents pneumonia in children fromHaemophilus influenzaetype b. Pneumococcal vaccine(Pneumovax, Prevnar) lowers the chances of getting pneumonia fromStreptococcus pneumoniae.Vaccines like respiratory syncytial virus and flu vaccine are also helpful against certain kinds of pneumonia.Now, about treatment, it is always best to see a doctor and subject any external advice to your doctor's scrutiny and approval, if you think you might be suffering from any ailment.That said, here are a few tips that may be helpful in dealing with pneumonia. Try to drink water, juice or weak tea. DO NOT drink alcohol and get plenty of rest each day.If you have trouble sleeping at night, take naps during the day. Breathing warm, moist (wet) air helps loosen the sticky mucus that may make you feel like you are choking. So, try placing a warm, wet washcloth loosely over your nose and mouth.Fill a humidifier with warm water and breathe in the warm mist. Coughing helps clear your airways. Take a couple of deep breaths two or three times every hour, as they will help open up your lungs.Wash your hands regularly, refrain from smoking, eat healthfully, exercise and stay away from sputum or cough particles from others with pneumonia.Though pneumonia can be a fearsome killer, vaccines are very effective against the disease.Many pneumonia patients not only survive, but also improve within two weeks of prompt treatment.Go to onlineclinicnigeria@wordpress.com for more.
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