One child dies of Pneumonia every 39 seconds across the World, according to UNICEF. Despite a decrease in infant mortality rate of Pakistan from 62 per 1,000 live births in 2018 to 56 per 1,000 live births in 2022, Pneumonia is still the number one killer in Pakistan, with 70,000 deaths per year.
There are around 15 million episodes of ARI (Acute Respiratory Infections) in Pakistani children annually and that includes milder illnesses like; common cold, and flu, to severity that needs admission to hospitals in which Bronchiolitis, acute attacks of Asthma and Pneumonia are on top. Prevention, early recognition, and interventions (seeking medical care) can save more lives, says Dr. Irfan Habib, Medical Director at ChildLife Foundation.
Bronchiolitis (inflammation of the air passage due to virus) is affecting mostly infants, specially during the rainy season and early winters. Parents and adults can easily infect young children with the virus. Its symptoms resemble those of common cold (runny nose, sore throat, cough, and sometimes fever). “Take your child to the doctor immediately if you think they have above symptoms along with chest in-drawing. Sometimes your child can get Pneumonia right away after getting off another infection such as cold or flu”, he said.
Key instructions for parents, especially mothers to prevent episodes of Acute Respiratory Infections in their children:
Follow vaccination schedule of your child that will prevent diseases like; Pneumonia, Diphtheria, and Pertussis (whooping cough). Keep your child warm during winter season. Continue exclusive breastfeeding to your little child of less than six months of age and continuous breastfeeding till 24 months of age is essential to reduce the burden of Pneumonia in children. A mother should not discontinue breastfeeding even during her cold and flu-like illness. Adults should cover their coughs and sneezes with a tissue or their upper shirt sleeve, not their hands. While infected with cold and flu, they should avoid kissing their child. Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds specially before touching your child.
Parents should also be extra careful about their children’s health as the after-effects of the recent disastrous floods throughout Sindh and Balochistan have given birth to numerous viral diseases. The huge banks of flood waters have escalated various kinds of illnesses including diarrhoea, malaria, dengue, and others, which is why medical experts suggest the parents to maintain additional precautions for their children with the onset of winter.
ChildLife Foundation is providing children’s emergency healthcare and telemedicine services throughout 100+ public sector hospitals of the country in partnership with the government. We are consistently striving on the path of building a child-safe Pakistan and spend our every minute to save the children of our country.