Cold brings misery for the little ones
As winter peaks, childhood pneumonia cases and deaths have increased around the country as reflected in the number of patients in the two major hospitals of Dhaka.
In December last year, a total of 437 children with pneumonia were admitted to Bangladesh Shishu Hospital and Institute (BSHI) in Dhaka -- around a 25 percent increase compared to the previous month. In November, the number was 315.
"Casualty in pneumonia increases during cold weather. A total of 43 children died from the disease in our hospital in November. I do not have the figure for casualties in December. But it will be close to that in November," Dr Jahangir Alam, director of BSHI, told The Daily Star on Thursday.
Besides, the BSHI also refers many children suffering from acute pneumonia to other hospitals for ICU support, a physician at the BSHI Pneumonia ward said. Those who were referred to different hospitals, were not included in the fatality list of BSHI, according to the doctor.
Cases of pneumonia increases during winter season around the country every year, said Prof Dr Iffat Ara Shamsad, head of the pediatric department at DMCH. About 10 children with the disease are being admitted to Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH) everyday on an average in recent times, she added.
In November, the number was 2-3, cases have been on the rise since then, the DMCH doctor said.
Pneumonia, caused by bacteria, viruses or fungi, leaves children to fight for their lives as their lungs fill with pus and fluid.
To avoid death, physicians urge parents to take extra caution if any child shows symptoms including cough, cold or high fever, and breathing problem.
Delayed hospital admission is the main reason behind deaths of such patients, according to Dr Jahangir.
"If any child has a cold, parents should stay connected with physicians. If the child has problem breathing, parents should take them to the nearby hospital," he said.
As pneumonia is an infection of the lungs, its most common symptoms are coughing, breathing problems and fever, explained Dr Iffat Ara Shamsad.
She said, "Children with pneumonia usually experience fast breathing and their lower chest may draw in or retract when they inhale. In case of normal cough or fever, there is usually no breathing issue."
Pneumonia is still the main cause of death of children aged under five in Bangladesh. According to the icddr,b, around 12,000 children under five die of pneumonia every year.
But if intervened timely, many lives can be saved easily, according to the experts.