KARACHI: Around 60 percent of the children infected with pneumonia die at home because their parents refuse to budge and seek medical treatment. At a seminar on Monday, experts lamented the fact that people in Pakistan take childhood diseases too lightly.
Dr Iqbal A Memon, Pakistan Pediatric Association Centre’s president, delivered a lecture on pneumonia at an event organised by the Express Media Group, in collaboration with Glaxso Smith Kline. The seminar – titled ‘Pneumonia and Childhood Ear Infections’ – was held to mark World Pneumonia Day.
Prof. Memon said pneumonia was one the most deadly diseases among children under five years. “Parents should take their children to the nearest clinic immediately if symptoms emerge. There should be no delay as the illness can be deadly if left untreated.”
He added that breastfeeding, clean water, good sanitation, food safety and handwashing are some preventive measures that mothers can use to keep the disease at bay. Dr Memon also emphasised the importance of inoculation. “I do not know about other things, but I’m sure that the government has done one great job in over 60 years: vaccination.” He said that around 0.1 million children die of the pneumonia each year in Pakistan. About 34 million children across the globe are not fully inoculated, particularly in Asia and Africa. “Immunisation can save money. Vaccinations are weapons of mass protection and there is no reason to refuse them.” Dr Memon also advised parents not to use antibiotic blindly for every illness. “Even educated people use medicine without consulting a child specialist,” he said.
Consultant child specialist, Dr M Nand Lal, spoke about the prevention of childhood ear infections. “The peak incidence of Otitis Media occurs in children aged 6 to 18 months,” he said. “Hearing problems, if not treated properly, can affect child’s educational and social activities. In fact, performance will be affected throughout the child’s life.”
He said that parents in Pakistan were not taking their children’s ear ailments as seriously as they should be. “They do not take their children to doctors for hearing tests. Ear illnesses among toddlers are common but downplayed in this country,” complained Dr Lal. He said hearing tests should be conducted at least once a year, as early diagnosis and treatment can lead to better recovery.
Like Dr Memon, he stressed that prevention is better than cure and that parents should not start treating their children with antibiotics without consulting a doctor first. Dr Lal also said that breastfeeding can keep illnesses at bay, but even this must be done in a correct way. “Mothers should not feed their children while they are sleeping because this can cause ear infections.”
Published in The Express Tribune, November 20th, 2012.