Children are more vulnerable to this respiratory infection, due to their still developing immune system, and hence need special attention. So it is imperative to maintain proper hygiene and cleanliness to prevent the infection from spreading. Going back to the basics of hand washing and maintaining general cleanliness can go a long way in controlling pneumonia and several other childhood maladies.
Studies have revealed that hand washing with soap prevents the two clinical syndromes that cause the largest number of childhood deaths globally—acute lower respiratory infections like pneumonia and diarrhoea. In fact, studies have proved that children younger than 5 years in households that received plain soap and hand washing promotion show a 50% lower incidence of pneumonia. A simple way to help prevent Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) associated pneumonia in children is to wash our hands often, especially before touching the baby. It would be worthwhile to mention here that according to the ARI Atlas, RSV infection is the most common source of severe respiratory illness in children worldwide killing an estimated 66000 to 199,000 children annually, most of who are in the developing world.
Dr Amita Pandey Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the Chhatrapati Shahuji Maharaj Medical University (erstwhile King George’s Medical College), also feels that it does not cost much to maintain proper hygiene. Simple rules of hygiene are proper cleanliness, clean air, no overcrowding and protecting the child from other infected persons.
Dr Ajay Misra Managing Director Nelson Hospital Of Paediatrics and Neonatal Medicine, lists the simple rules of hygiene as cleanliness and hand washing, and a clean, open environment. He insists that homes and hospitals, both should maintain high standards of cleanliness. The doors, windows, floors should be cleaned regularly and parents, family members, children, hospital staff should wear clean clothes. All this does not cost much—it only requires a proper mindset and attitude. Living in posh houses behind closed doors and windows, with no proper ventilation and flow of clean air also poses a danger. Babies are at particular risk of developing infections due to their delicate anatomy and levels of immunity. Bottle feeding, which seems to be a fashion in urban as well as rural India, seriously compromises the hygiene and health of the baby. Adherence to the regimen of exclusive breast feeding during the first 6 months is low in India too, and mothers often combine breast milk with bottle feeding, increasing the risk of infection, and the risk that infants ingest water and other liquids that lack essential nutrients.
In Dr Ajay Misra’s opinion, “These days, bottle feeding has become a fashion in urban as well as rural areas. This is more out of peer pressure and also because of personal convenience. Due to lack of proper information mothers feel that bottle feed will improve a child’s health as they can feed the child more. Usually there is just one bottle and even that is not washed properly. This becomes a major cause of many infections. One should resort to bottle feed only if mother’s feed is not possible due to medical reasons, and in that case very high standards of bottle hygiene should be maintained.”
Shobha Shukla - CNS
(The author is the Managing Editor of Citizen News Service (CNS). She is a J2J Fellow of National Press Foundation (NPF) USA. She has worked earlier with State Planning Institute, UP and taught physics at India's prestigious Loreto Convent. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, website: http://www.citizen-news.org/)