When my mom had my kid brother, he was just a few days old and my mom’s friend bathed him with cold water in a city that was 17°C Cold (Jos precisely). We were just kids but we were so mad at her, then a few weeks later he had pneumonia and oh we almost hated her because we thought it had to be the cold water that caused pneumonia and it was her fault our baby brother was sick. We were just kids, we didn’t know any better but thankfully my brother got better.
Just as we thought, a lot of people still think pneumonia is caused by cold but what is pneumonia and what causes it?
Pneumonia is an acute respiratory disease that affects one or both of the lungs that causes inflammation and fluid to build up in the lungs. This disease is a leading cause of death in children and the elderly.
The 12th of November is world pneumonia day, this disease popularly called ”the forgotten killer” is still silently killing children and adults all over the world, that’s why this day is celebrated globally to raise awareness on prevention and treatment to combat the disease and make every life count.
Pneumonia is often spread by a virus or bacteria but cold weather alone doesn’t cause it, although it may worsen the symptoms. The early symptoms of pneumonia may feel like a terrible cold, that’s why people often assume it is caused by cold or that a common cold can turn into pneumonia. This disease can be painful, normally, when a healthy person breathes, the lungs are filled with air but when a person who has pneumonia breathes, their lungs will be filled with fluid which makes breathing painful and difficult, it is also what is responsible for the wheezing sound when breathing.
How can you tell the difference between a common cold and Pneumonia?
If you know the symptoms of pneumonia, you would know whether to let the cold run its course or quickly get medical help.
- High fever with chills
- Breathing difficulty
- Cold, cough and stuffy nose
- Bluish discolouration of the hands and feet
- Chest pain
If you have a Common cold, Cough, a little fever and a slight headache may be present but pneumonia will come with these other symptoms.
Who is most affected by Pneumonia?
Children below 5 years are at risk but 1 year below (infants) are at a higher risk because their immune system is still weak. This is not to say that adults can’t have pneumonia; adults with existing conditions like asthma, kidney problems or any brain issues are likely to have pneumonia. Adults without these conditions can also have it if they come in contact with the virus, bacteria or fungi that cause the disease.
How is it Transmitted?
The way pneumonia is transmitted is almost the same way coronavirus spreads. The germs spread from an infected person to a healthy person when they come in contact. That’s why it is advised to stay away from anyone who has pneumonia. Transmission could be through inhalation and this happens when an infected person sneezes and coughs and another individual inhales the infected particles, but this must be at a very close range enough to infect a person or in a poorly ventilated space.
The germs can also be transmitted by ingesting them. When you touch surfaces that have germs from when an infected person sneezed or touched, if your hands are not washed before you pick up something to eat or rub your eyes or pick your nose, you will get the disease.
How to prevent Pneumonia
- Breast milk contains certain contents like colostrum, a breast fluid in humans that has high nutritional value and has a high level of antibodies that help fight bacteria and infections. This is why women are advised to breastfeed their newborns to boost their immune systems and stay healthy through childhood. Breast milk is beneficial to both the newborns and the mother, newborns who are not breastfed are 17 times more likely to have pneumonia compared to babies who are.
- Wash your hands regularly when you get out of the bathroom and generally before eating anything or touching your face.
- Newborns and young kids should be vaccinated against pneumonia, parents should ensure this happens, just in case the hospitals don’t suggest or vaccinate the babies.
- Avoid things that put the lungs under undue pressure; avoid smoking, it damages the lungs and makes the individual susceptible to pneumonia-causing the virus and bacteria.
- Avoid Breathing in polluted air and inhaling smoke from cooking with firewood or other biomass fuels. Keep the air in your home and surroundings clean, ensure cross ventilation and use humidifiers to purify the air.
- Proper nutrition is essential both for kids and adults in fighting the disease when in contact with it and it also reduces the duration of the illness. A healthy lifestyle and diet will boost your immune system and overall health
Pneumonia can be deadly if it’s not managed properly or on time in babies and adults. It remains the number one killer of children under 5years and is prevalent in areas with a high rate of poverty, the essence of world pneumonia day is not only to create awareness but to get individuals, organisations, policymakers and the government involved in combating this huge health crisis.
Delay in the treatment of pneumonia may lead to complications like respiratory failure and bacteremia, etc. Treatment is simply with an antibiotic or antiviral or antifungal, depending on what’s causing the disease.so, don’t hesitate to visit the hospital when you have any of these symptoms, if you are scared of the cost of treatment, easily get affordable health insurance so that cost will no longer be a hindrance to getting quality treatment.
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