Acute respiratory infections continue hitting child population

Muhammad Qasim
Sunday, Mar 03, 2024

Rawalpindi : The incidences of acute respiratory infections are still much higher among the child population in this region of the country as a heavy influx of child patients with colds, sore throat, cough, flu and pneumonia is being registered at both the public and private sector healthcare facilities operating in the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi.

After the recent rain in this part of the country, the weather has once again turned chilly putting the child population at greater risk of contracting winter related illnesses. According to health experts, it is time for parents to take extraordinary measures to safeguard their children from the bad effects of extreme cold. The paediatrics departments operating in two of the three allied hospitals in town including Benazir Bhutto Hospital and Holy Family Hospital are receiving a significant number of child patients with ARIs, considered as the most common causes of both illness and mortality in children below five years of age.

Data collected by ‘The News’ on Saturday has revealed that well over 50 per cent of the total child patients being taken to the paediatrics departments of the allied hospitals in town are with upper or lower respiratory tract infections. Also, a good number of child patients particularly below five years of age reaching allied hospitals are with triggered asthma which, according to health experts, is alarming.

Data reveals that around 10 per cent of the child patients being registered at the allied hospitals with ARIs are suffering from lower respiratory tract infections including pneumonia, one of the top killers of children below five years of age. It is important that pneumonia has already claimed over 200 lives at the healthcare facilities in the region this winter.

Health experts say that the incidence of flu among child patients having asthma aggravates asthmatic problems and to avoid complications, such patients must be safeguarded from cold and getting wet. Before the recent rain, most of the parents were thinking that the extreme cold weather had come to an end. Experts, however, say that it is not the case as the acute respiratory infections are still on the rise.

Experts say that the spread of respiratory tract infections including colds, runny nose, sore throat, cough and flu among children can be avoided by following simple preventive measures. Children should be protected from cold by using warm clothing to avoid upper and lower respiratory tract infections while infants should be exclusively breastfed for at least the first six months of age to avoid pneumonia. Parents should avoid children from getting wet to avoid pneumonia and children should be kept in a clean environment and their rooms should be well ventilated.

Parents must be aware of the fact that for protection from pneumonia, all children below five years of age must be administered pneumococcal vaccine and haemophilus influenzae type B (HIB) vaccine which is available under the Expanded Program on Immunisation. The administration of the measles vaccine is also a must for every child. In case a child has missed any of the said vaccines, parents can take him or her to the allied hospitals where these vaccines are available for all children free of cost.

It is important that the upper respiratory tract infections are highly contagious and can be passed by tiny droplets produced during sneezing or coughing of infected persons or children. Parents of infected children should take extra care to avoid spread of the infection. Experts say that the child patients suffering from pneumonia should be taken immediately to the nearest healthcare facility as through in-time management, nearly 70 per cent of deaths can be avoided.