Pneumonia: The Overlooked Killer

Pneumonia is defined as an acute respiratory infection affecting the lungs. The lungs consist of cells that fill with air when a healthy person breathes. In case of pneumonia, the cells are filled with pus and liquid, which makes the breathing painful and limits the absorption of oxygen. This disease is the leading infectious cause of death in children. In 2015, 922,136 children under five years of age died of pneumonia, representing 16% of deaths in this age group worldwide.

What Are the Symptoms of Pneumonia?

The manifestations of this disease depend on the germ causing the infection, but most often the patient will have a high fever, shortness of breath, cough, chest pain, muscle aches, headache, and some cases also nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Transmitted in different ways, viruses and bacteria commonly found in children’s nasal passages or pharynx can infect the lungs if inhaled. They are also spread by air, through droplets emitted during coughing or sneezing. Also, pneumonia is transmissible by blood during or shortly after birth.


Most cases of pneumonia require oral antibiotics usually prescribed in a health center or treated with inexpensive oral antibiotics at home by trained health workers.

Prevention of Pneumonia

This is an essential part of the strategy to reduce the cases of this disease and child mortality. Hib, pneumococcal, measles and whooping cough vaccines are the most efficient way to prevent pneumonia and child mortality.

Good nutrition is essential to increase a child’s natural defenses, starting with exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months. This preventive measure is also effective in reducing the duration of the disease if it occurs.

Fighting environmental risk factors, such as indoor air pollution in homes (providing clean stoves, for example), exposure to tobacco smoke, and hygienic compliance in overcrowded housing, also reduces the number of children affected by this disease.