Winter is season has made its presence in most parts of India, and some parts will soon be experiencing a chill breeze. The drop in the temperature and the cold air after the rains brings about some common lung issues along with the beautiful weather. Pneumonia an acute infection that affects the lungs seems to rise by considerable numbers in the winter season. Although contrary to the common belief that pneumonia spike is caused by dry and cold weather, it can’t be farther from the truth. The main cause of the rise in pneumonia and other lung and cold issues is that people spend most of their time indoors especially during the early winters to beat the cold, this puts people in more close proximity making it an ideal place for the exchange of disease-causing germs, as they thrive in the winter. Children are at high risk to be exposed to infections; studies show that pneumonia is the single largest infection among children. Pneumonia is also the leading cause of mortality or morbidity in children.
What causes the infection and its transmission?
The causes and the knowledge of how the disease spreads is great in fighting the infection and keeping the children safe and healthy in the initial stage itself. The infection is usually caused by Streptococcus Pneumoniae (most common) and Haemophilus influenza B (HIB – Second most common) bacterial infection. It is also caused due to syncytial virus, a common viral cause in general.
The bacteria and the germs causing pneumonia have various modes of transmission like air-borne droplets from cough or sneeze, through the virus or bacteria from the child’s nose or throat, or blood at the time of birth or shortly after birth. The infection transmitted affects the lungs and leads to inflamed alveoli filled with pus and fluid. The symptoms of this include fever, chills, breathing problems, phlegm, dry cough, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, etc.
What are the risk factors for pneumonia?
1. Poor Hygiene: Compromise on hygiene puts newborns and children at risk of exposure to pneumonia. The virus is passed through contact. Frequently touching their eyes or mouth, coughing without covering their mouth, or coughing into their hands are also some of the practices that increase the risk of spread of the bacteria causing pneumonia.
2. General Health issues: Children with frequent health issues are highly susceptible to the infection. Children with earlier conditions like chronic illness, obstructive pulmonary diseases, and flu are prone to be at severe risk of infection. Flu is more common during the early winters, thus preventing flu will help in dodging the complications.
3. Compromised immune system: Children with weaker immune systems are generally exposed to all kinds of infections. Healthier immunity strong children have their natural defenses up against any infection.
4. Undernourishment: Nourishment and nutritional intake play a vital role in building immunity against pneumonia and other infections. Undernourished children or malnutrition are at high risk. Infants that aren’t exclusively fed with breast milk till 6 months also have complications in fighting the infection.
5. Other factors: Other risk factors of pneumonia include indoor air pollution by cooking with biomass fuel, and crowded homes with increased physical contact. Children whose parents smoke are also more likely to be exposed to the infection.
Pneumonia is caused primarily by fungi, bacteria, and viruses that affect the lungs. The condition can lead to fatality in children. It is advised to take the necessary vaccinations on time. The vaccination even when not able to prevent the infection completely will provide the immunity to fight the symptoms. Make sure to visit the doctor immediately when the child shows symptoms.
– Dr.Murali Gopal, Apollo Cradle & Children’s Hospital, Karapakkam, Chennai.