Early this week I was sitting in a matatu while going to work and it hit me that it was World Pneumonia Day. I remembered that this was the monster that put my sister down until she passed on. You see, she had Down Syndrome and her immune system was weak. She suffered from recurring pneumonia until she could not fight anymore. Pneumonia is one of the respiratory infections that are associated with Down Syndrome. Air sacs in the lungs are filled with pus or fluid making it hard for the baby to breathe.
This day is marked every year on November 12 to:
- Raise awareness about pneumonia, the world’s leading infectious killer of children under the age of 5.
- Promote interventions to protect against, prevent, and treat pneumonia and highlight proven approaches and solutions in need of additional resources and attention.
- Generate action, including continued donor investment, to combat pneumonia and other common, yet sometimes deadly, childhood diseases.
Symptoms to look out for are: coughing, rapid heartbeat, chest pain made worse by breathing or coughing, nausea and vomiting, sweating, shivering etc.Children with Down syndrome are more likely to develop pneumonia because the body’s immune system hasn’t developed.
How do you prevent pneumonia in a baby?
- Keep your child away from children (and adults) who are sick. If you child is sick with upper or lower respiratory tract symptoms (e.g. runny nose, cough and sneezing), it is best to keep them away from healthy children.
- Make sure your child is vaccinated.
- Frequent hand washing with warm water and soap helps to prevent viruses or bacteria from entering the body.
- Don’t let your child share eating utensils, cups or straws with others. Same goes for facial tissue and handkerchiefs.
Pneumonia can range in seriousness from mild to life-threatening. It is most serious for infants and young children, people older than age 65, and people with health problems or weakened immune systems.