Nutrition and cleanliness vital to protect children from pneumonia

A balanced nutritious diet is a must for everyone especially for children as they are growing and their body’s self-defense mechanism is developing. If the food we consume is not nutritious then instead of benefiting us it can cause serious harms. One of the possible outcomes of malnutrition is pneumonia more so when it comes to children.

A balanced nutritious diet has a key role in developing a child’s immunity, said Dr Santosh Rai, senior Paediatrician, Vatsalya Clinic, Lucknow. Vitamins, antioxidants, minerals and other essential nutritional components of a balanced diet define our immunity. Children who are malnourished are at an elevated risk of infections such as pneumonia, said Dr Rai.

Dr Santosh Rai votes against eating junk food. We should maintain hygiene while preparing food for the child. It is not only stomach related ailments that are caused by lack of hygiene but also viral pneumonia can occur due to lack of cleanliness and hygiene. Every person who touches a child should first wash hands, and use clean utensils and clothes to attend to the child’s needs, said Dr Rai.

Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for the children in first six months of their lives, said Dr Ajay Kumar, a senior Paediatrician, Hope Mother and Child Care Centre, Lucknow. After first six months of a child’s life, gradually she or he should be given other nutritious food in addition to the mother’s milk.

Nutritious food need not necessarily be expensive. Dr Kumar advises against giving children fast-food or junk-food and stresses that mother’s milk is the complete diet for the child in first six months of life and should not be supplemented with milk from cow or buffalo or powdered milk products. Milk of cow and buffalo is complete diet for their own baby calves and not for human child. We should not compromise on cleanliness and hygiene when it comes to children, said Dr Kumar.

Dr Ritu Garg, senior Gynaecologist and Obstetrician, Yash Hospital, agreed too that nutritious diet need not be an expensive one. Dr Garg raises serious concerns on lack of hygiene maintained in child care and rearing. Mothers should wash their hands properly before feeding the child otherwise they are themselves putting their children at risk of contracting infections such as pneumonia, said Dr Garg.

Not only a balanced nutritious food is important but also maintaining hygiene and cleanliness is a key, said Dr Nidhi Johri, senior Gynaecologist and Obstetrician, Hope Mother and Child Care Centre, Lucknow. Dr Johri was awarded the Gold Medal in her medical education. Often children become malnourished because of lack of awareness about a balanced diet in their parents and guardians. Dr Johri believes that neither the adults nor the children need expensive food. She recommends seasonal fruits and vegetables as they are good source of nutrition. At times patients pester her to prescribe protein drinks but she instead prioritizes seasonal fruits and vegetables.

 Most infectious diseases thrive due to lack of hygiene and cleanliness, said Dr Johri. She advises all mothers who come to her hospital to maintain high degree of hygiene and cleanliness in their routine child care and upbringing. Practices such as washing hands properly before touching the child or feeding the child, washing milk bottles, nipples, and other supplies which the child needs, are important to follow in hygienic manner. The child of Ashish and Sangeeta Nigam developed pneumonia five months after birth, so it is very important to observe high grade of cleanliness and hygiene to ward off infections.

Neeraj Mailani - CNS
(Translation: Bobby Ramakant, Lucknow)