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     Volume 9 Issue 47| December 10, 2010 |

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Keeping Winter Diseases at Bay

Mahtabi zaman

Photo: zahedul i khan

Last month seven-month-old Audri was diagnosed with pneumonia. As her parents hospitalised her, doctors prescribed her oxygen mask to ease her breathing. They had to spend five days at the hospital to save their child's life. Audri's mother Masuma Yasmin says, “in the beginning Audri had simple coughing. But couple of days later she started to feel chest congestion, and there was an unusual sound when she breathed. She could not suck milk even when she was hungry. The lower portion of her chest seemed unusual due to breathing discomfort.”

It is generally observed that during winter, the probability of catching cold and cold related diseases get higher for children. As resistance power of children is weak, they are more vulnerable to cold related diseases such as pneumonia, bronchitis and asthma during this season.

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is a common cause to both pneumonia and bronchitis. Bacteria can also cause both the diseases. Pneumonia is an infection of one or both the lungs, caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi, which are usually spread when a person infected with these germs coughs or sneezes. In other cases, pneumonia is caused when bacteria or viruses that are normally present in the mouth, throat, or nose inadvertently enter the lung.

Most people who develop pneumonia initially show symptoms of a cold (upper respiratory infection), coupled with sneezing, sore throat and coughing, which are then followed by a high fever (sometimes as high as 104 F), shaking chills, and a cough with sputum production. The sputum is usually discoloured and sometimes carries blood. When the infection settles in the air passages of the lungs, cough and sputum tend to predominate the symptoms. In some instances, the spongy tissue of the lungs that contains the air sacs is more involved. In this case, oxygenation can be impaired along with stiffening of the lungs, which results in difficulty in breathing.

Children and babies who develop pneumonia often do not have any specific signs of a chest infection but develop a fever, appear quite ill and can become lethargic.

Bronchitis is an acute inflammation of the air passages within the lungs. It occurs when the windpipe and the large and small airways (bronchi) within the lungs become inflamed because of infection or other causes.

The thin mucus lining of these airways can become irritated and swollen. The cells that make up this lining may leak fluids in response to the inflammation. Coughing is a reflex that works to clear secretions from the lungs. Often the discomfort of a severe cough leads one to seek medical treatment. Both adults and children can get bronchitis. Symptoms are similar for both bronchitis and pneumonia. Infants usually get bronchiolitis, which involves the smaller airways and causes symptoms similar to asthma.

Asthma is not a disease, it is the airway obstruction caused by different reasons. Some suffer from asthma for cold, some for dust, some for pet animals and some for smoking.

There is currently no cure for asthma and no single exact cause has been identified. Therefore, understanding the changes that occur in case of asthma, especially how it makes one feel and behave over a certain period time is vital. This knowledge can help people infected with asthma play an active role in curing their diseases.

Dr ASM Alamgir, virologist at the Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) says, “For prevention of these cold related complexities parents should be conscious so that their children do not catch cold. But when a child is affected, the guardians should take him immediately to the paediatrician for need based treatment because treatment of all these diseases are symptomatic.”


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