To prevent pneumonia, government must regulate factories with dangerous emissions –Physician

[ad_1]

Godfrey George

A Port Harcourt, Rivers State-based general practitioner, Dr. Neebee Bariloe-Ue, discusses the causes and remedies of pneumonia with GODFREY GEORGE

What is pneumonia?

Pneumonia is a disease of the lungs characterised by inflammations of the airspace or the alveoli where gaseous exchange (breathing) of oxygen and carbon (iv) oxide takes place. So, if that space is inflamed for whatever reason, that is the beginning of the condition or abnormality known as pneumonia.

When the alveoli are inflamed, they may not be available for adequate oxygenation. The way it presents itself in humans varies from person to person. But there are what we refer to as ‘constitutional symptoms’. Initially, it may start with fever. As time goes on, the person may become breathless.

The breathing may be cracked, at first, and gradually, the person would begin to lose breath or may find it really difficult to breathe. Then, in the elderly, the person may have chest pain.

Does this mean the way it presents itself in the young may be different from the way it does in the elderly?

You know there are severities. For the young, it may be mild pneumonia, which may not give you all the classical symptoms, but generally speaking, across the spectrum, from the newborn to the elderly, we see fever, cough, breathlessness, chest pain, weakness, etc. Pneumonia can also be complicated. If it gets complicated, then, the symptoms become worse and can spread in the blood.

To keep it much simpler, for one to know if one has pneumonia, when one coughs, the cough may be productive, that is, it may produce sputum or phlegm. This is not in all cases. In the newborn, for example, the cough may not be productive. But in the elderly, the person can bring out whitish, greenish, or yellowish sputum.

Is pneumonia something that a mother can pass to their child?

Yes, of course. It can pass from mother to child. We know it is a disease of the lungs. There are disease conditions that a mother can have and the baby will become infected. It is not genetic or hereditary; it is acquired. If a pregnant woman has malaria, which is not well treated, it can also affect the baby. When that happens, we call it congenital pneumonia, just like we have congenital malaria. In babies, we may not have certain features, as I have said.

Is it is usually worse in children?

It should be strongly noted that children have low immunity. It is the same with the elderly people above 65 years. So, in fact, one of the commonest causes of under-five mortality is pneumonia. If not diagnosed early or well treated, it can kill these children very fast.

What are the risk factors which make people vulnerable to this condition?

We have a lot of risk factors. Just like in children, age extremity is a risk factor. So, this means, the newborns and the very elderly are at risk of developing the condition. Overcrowding is another risk factor. You will find so many people sharing one room and when they sleep, you can barely see a place to put your legs, that is not a healthy way to live at all. The oxygen concentration in the room will be low and the risk of transmission of infection is even more common. The economic situation of the country is bad, everyone knows, but one must try to make sure one protects oneself from diseases. By all means, avoid staying in an overcrowded house. Embrace much safer means of living. Another risk factor is what is termed immune suppression. Here, a person’s immune system would be so low and may not be able to fight diseases. Anything that would reduce one’s immune system would certainly expose that person to pneumonia. For example, people living with HIV/AIDS are at risk of contracting many other diseases alongside AIDS. This is because the immune system is low because of the presence of the virus. Those with chronic diabetes or organ diseases (kidney, lung, heart diseases) are also vulnerable to pneumonia. Also, malnutrition can be a factor. Some people don’t just like eating. Some eat junk foods, not because they lack the money, but because they may be too tired to cook or get good food. This doesn’t help at all. Nutrition (balanced diet) plays a very vital role in the general body immunity of a person.

When you eat well, your immune system can then fight diseases. Another factor is hospitalisation. There are people who just go to the hospital for no reason; maybe to see a sick person and stay in the ward for a very long time, such people can be at risk, too, of contracting, not just pneumonia, but other diseases. The hospital is an infected environment. Those people admitted to the hospital, who have to spend a long time in the hospital, are also at risk of getting infected with pneumonia. This is why some doctors would not admit a patient except there is a justifiable reason for the person to be admitted.

Is this not risky for the doctors themselves, who work there 24/7; eat there, and sometimes sleep in the hospital?

Yes, of course. That is part of the work hazard for us, doctors. But there are precautions. This is why we say health workers are a vulnerable group, too, just like people who work in certain companies where they are exposed to toxic and hazardous substances in the environment like factories where they deal in asbestos, silicon, etc. Gas flaring, too, also contributes to all these. Those with chronic lung diseases like asthma are also at risk. People who are chronic smokers are also at risk because some of the substances are carcinogenic and are deadly to the body system. Even those who abuse alcohol are at risk. The very common one will be people who are exposed to cold environments. Cold is not the cause of pneumonia just like many people think. When one is exposed to excessive cold, that can be a risk factor, but it is not a causal factor. When one lives in a cold environment, there are a lot of secretions that go on and micro-organisms can easily get trapped in that secretion and pneumonia can develop from there.

How can one prevent all of this?

The prevention of pneumonia is done at different levels. We have primary, secondary and tertiary preventions. The prevention of pneumonia should involve different sectors –government, non-governmental organisations, and the general public. The government should enact and enforce laws that will prohibit people from taking some harmful substances and emitting the same in the environment. Smoking should be restricted. Companies that dwell on hazardous substances like asbestos, silicon or flaring of gas have to be regulated. There should be enlightenment, just like Sunday PUNCH is doing every week on these health concerns so people can become more conscious of these conditions. People should be encouraged to eat well. Sometimes, take out from that money you are stacking to buy a pair of shoes or a suit and buy some good food, some fruits and some water and enjoy. This life does not have a second part. I am not saying anyone should be reckless with spending, but you cannot save at the expense of your well-being; that is wickedness.

When you speak of proper nutrition and balanced diet, what comes to my mind are those people who cannot even afford a meal per day and depend on whatever they are given. How are they going to cope with the harsh economic conditions?

The economic situation in this country makes me cry sometimes, to be honest. As a doctor, I think of these patients who need very common things like an apple or an orange and cannot afford it because of their poor economic situations. It is just unfortunate, especially for urban dwellers. For those in the villages, it may be much easier as most of their foods are eaten fresh. I’d advise that people go for fresh food sources. Instead of canned food with lots of preservatives, go for fresh foods. Buy fresh vegetables and fruits. Don’t wait for the ones that look like they want to rot before you eat them. Buy seafood and eat them as often as you can. These things are not even that expensive. Some of the fruits consumed in Nigeria are almost like second-hand by-products, but we need to do these things to stay alive, so we have to try to be alive.

Away from prevention, what are the causes of pneumonia?

The causes of pneumonia are classified based on the physiology of the micro-organism causing it. So, we can have bacterial pneumonia, meaning that it was caused by a bacterium. We have viral pneumonia. It can be fungi pneumonia. We may have pneumonia from chemical or non-infectious substances, like emission from factories. We call this pneumonitis (when pneumonia is caused by non-infectious chemical substances). An important point I must make is that since pneumonia is common in children, it is expected that every child be immunised with the pneumococcal vaccine. This vaccine helps the babies build immunity which in turn fights against these infections when they attack the child.

What is the diagnosis like when a patient presents themselves in the hospital?

When the patient comes to the hospital, we check for the symptoms from what the patient complains about. The signs are what the doctors elicit. Usually, the patient would complain of cough, breathlessness or fast breathing in children. Some will have chest pain and fever. When they present these, the doctor may start thinking towards that line, even though there are other things that can cause this condition. Then, the doctors will go ahead to examine the patient, ask some questions, depending on the complaints. This is in a bid to know the character of the symptoms. For patients who have pneumonia, there are things you would see from the examination. One of which is, when a stethoscope is used to listen to the breathing, one would hear a croaking sound. The sound is coarse. When you listen closely to the lung base, the area surrounded by the lungs, you’ll hear the precipitations. This points to the fact that it may be pneumonia. The doctor may do what we called tactile plenitude, to be sure of this. Here, you place the hands over the chest and try to get the sound, if there is a dull sound; there is likelihood that it may be pneumonia. All these will help us point to the fact that someone has pneumonia. The doctor may also require a chest x-ray.

If the symptoms are not recognised on time and treatment comes late, what is the worst that can happen?

This is why doctors advise people to go for check-ups before beginning any treatment. The fact that you have a cough and you take some medication because you think it is just cold is very dangerous to your health. Anything can go wrong when you are using the wrong drug to treat an illness.

This is why the mortality rates keep increasing. Some people stay home for years till their health has deteriorated before they’d remember there is somewhere they call a hospital. Early detection is always the key to recovery and cure. In the early stage, it may be easy to diagnose and treat, but when it lingers and has eaten so deeply, anything can happen, even death.

Copyright PUNCH

All rights reserved. This material, and other digital content on this website, may not be reproduced, published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in whole or in part without prior express written permission from PUNCH.

Contact: [email protected]

[ad_2]

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.