12 November 2010
By Umesh Isalkar
Adequate nutrition to shore up children’s immunity, starting with breastfeeding for the first six months of life is effective in preventing pneumonia and reducing the duration of the illness, say experts.
"Thousands of children die of pneumonia. Prevention is best rather than treating a fully developed disease which involves risk to life, prolonged morbidity and high expenses. Good nutrition ensures good immunity and also proper and rapid response of the body to any invading germs," said paediatrician Jayant Navarange.
"Proper breastfeeding right from the birth of a baby up to six months can provide appropriate amounts of protein, sugar, fats and water along with important protective substances like IgA (immunoglobulin A ) and protective cells. Both are essential for a strong defence mechanism in any individual. Breastfeeding minimises the chances of development of allergy so common these days resulting in recurrent cold and even asthma," he added.
Paediatrician Shishir Modak, president of Indian Academy of Paediatrics (IAP), Pune branch said, "While most healthy children can fight the infection with their natural defences, children whose immune systems are compromised are at higher risk of developing pneumonia. A child’s immune system may be weakened by malnutrition or undernourishment, especially in infants who are not exclusively breastfed."
Other preventive strategies like childhood vaccinations against measles, pneumonia and influenza, promoting good eating practices, prevention of LBW babies, providing healthy environment, controlling indoor air pollution will reduce the incidence of pneumonia among children. Parent education about early recognition of pneumonia, early medical treatment and use of effective antibiotics will save many children, said Modak.
After the age of six months, foods like rice, dal, fruits and vegetables are required to fight bacteria and viruses that cause throat infections, lung infections, said Navarange. "A proper nutritional status is a must for various drugs and antibiotics to fight pneumonia as well as for the vaccines to act," Navarange said.
You Can Do This
- Exclusively breastfeed up to six months
- Gradually wean with staple food in the next 18 months
- Go for regular growth check–ups
- Vaccinate against infectious diseases
- Maintain hygiene and sanitation
- Minimise indoor and outdoor pollution