February Focus On Pneumonia: What Can Children Do?

In the month of February, we focused on Coughs and Colds and other serious illnesses such as Pneumonia. This February (2019) we are taking a look at Pneumonia and what children can do. Pneumonia is a terrible killer of children. On World Pneumonia day, Save the Children predicted that 11 million children would die as a result of Pneumonia by 2030. WHO/UNICEF has an Integrated Global Action plan for pneumonia and diarrhoea: ending preventable deaths from pneumonia and diarrhoea by 2025. This was published in 2013. According to the WHO fact sheet on Pneumonia, Pneumonia accounts for 16% of all deaths of children under five-years-old, killing 920,136 children in 2015, accounting for 16% of all deaths of children under five-years-old. Pneumonia affects children and families everywhere but is most prevalent in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Here is some information on Pneumonia and what we think children themselves can do to help.

What is Pneumonia?

Pneumonia is a form of acute respiratory infection that affects the lungs. The lungs are made up of small sacs called alveoli, which fill with air when a healthy person breathes. When an individual has pneumonia, the alveoli are filled with pus and fluid, which makes breathing painful and limits oxygen intake. It’s especially dangerous for those with a weak immune system, such as those with HIV.

Causes of Pneumonia

Pneumonia can be caused by viruses, bacteria, or fungi.

How Pneumonia is Spread

  • The viruses and bacteria are commonly found in a child’s nose or throat and they can infect the lungs if they are inhaled.
  • They can spread via airborne droplets from a cough or sneeze.
  • Pneumonia may spread through blood, especially during and shortly after birth.

How Pneumonia is Prevented 

  • Pneumonia can be prevented by immunisation against Hib, pneumococcus, measles and whooping cough (pertussis) this is the most effective way to prevent pneumonia.
  • Good nutrition, including exclusive breastfeeding for infants and good nutrition when weaning.
  • Good handwashing with soap.
  • Reducing indoor air pollution – using low cost clean indoor stoves instead of cooking and heating with wood or dung.
  • Reducing parental smoking.
  • Children with HIV can be given daily medicine to prevent pneumonia.

Signs of Pneumonia

  • The signs of pneumonia caused by bacteria or viruses are similar.
  • The signs of viral pneumonia can be more than bacterial pneumonia.
  • In children under five years of age, who have cough and/or difficult breathing, with or without fever, pneumonia is diagnosed by the presence of either fast breathing or lower chest wall indrawing where their chest moves in or retracts during inhalation (in a healthy person, the chest expands during inhalation).
  • Wheezing (noisy gasping breathing) is more common in viral pneumonia.
  • Very ill infants may be unable to feed or drink and may also experience unconsciousness, hypothermia and convulsions.

How Pneumonia is Treated

Pneumonia caused by bacteria can be treated with inexpensive oral antibiotics at the community level by trained community health workers. Hospitalisation is recommended only for severe cases of pneumonia.

What Can Children Do?

The first thing that children can do is learn these 10 messages – they’re available in many more languages too!


sa,, picture of a person coughingHere are some ideas for activities for children to understand more about the topic and share ideas with others.
  • MAKE our own messages on Coughs, Colds & Illness in our own words and our own language!
  • MEMORISE the messages so we never forget them!
  • SHARE the messages with other children and our families!
  • MAKE a plan of your house. Where is smoky, where is not? Where is safe for young children to play away from smoke?
  • MAKE a poster to encourage parents to take their children for immunisation against dangerous diseases like measles and whooping cough.
  • MAKE up a song about pneumonia and share it with our family and friends!
  • MAKE a Pendulum with a string and stone to help us count when breathing is fast and when breathing is normal, and show what we have learnt to our families.
  • MAKE our own play about breastfeeding babies.
  • MAKE a play about keeping cool with a fever and keeping warm with a cold.
  • MAKE a Tippy Tap for home and school to help wash our hands with soap before eating and after using the toilet.
  • LEARN how to wash your hands with soap and water to stop germs spreading, and protect yourself against coughs and colds.
  • TEST our knowledge of pneumonia by acting out different scenarios that could be pneumonia or could be a cold.
  • ASK what are the danger signs for pneumonia? Share what we learn with our families.
  • ASK where is smoking banned? Is your school smoke-free?
  • ASK what makes us breathe fast? We can measure our breathing to learn to identify fast breathing when someone is in danger from pneumonia.
  • ASK what are new and old ways to treat coughs and colds?
  • ASK how are germs spread? Learn by playing The Handshaking Game.
For more information on the Tippy Tap, the Pendulum or the Handshaking game, or for any other information, please contact www.childrenforhealth.org or clare@childrenforhealth.org