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Parents cautioned against using cough syrups to treat pneumonia

Medics in Kakamega County have cautioned parents against rushing for over-the-counter cough syrups when their babies present cough symptoms.

A clinical Pharmacist at the Kakamega General Hospital pediatric department, Dr. Linet Elamenya urged parents whose babies have persistent coughs to seek medical attention from a qualified healthcare provider to get the right treatment for the cough.

Dr. Elamenya said most of the cough syrups have a cough suppressor, which will worsen the situation if a child has chest congestion, leading to death.

“Cough is very common in children and when it persists every parent would want to see the cough stop and because of that they will quickly run to get the cough syrups, which are readily over the counter, that’s why we are saying it should be discouraged and parents should seek medical attention from qualified healthcare givers,” she disclosed.

Dr. Alemenya was speaking at Kakamega General Hospital in readiness for World Pneumonia Day, held each year globally on November 12.

Meanwhile, a pediatrician at the hospital Dr. Roseline Marangachi disclosed that pneumonia remains one of the reasons for hospital admissions at the Wards in Kakamega General Hospital after malaria, with most patients being admitted with severe forms of pneumonia.

She said out of 10 child mortalities at the General Hospital, two might have been attributed by pneumonia as Dr. Marangachi says that sometimes the child with pneumonia has other underlying conditions like malnutrition, immune suppression, and sickle cell increasing the risk of death.

According to an International Organization, Health Newborn Network, child pneumonia is the most neglected disease claiming the lives of over 800 000 children under the age of 5 every year.

Dr. Marangachi says that the signs and symptoms of pneumonia include when a child has a cough with fast breathing and also presents signs like nodding their heads as if they seem to be saying yes with every breath.

“You will also notice that they are having difficulties in breathing, which is noted by every time they take a breath where you realize that the space below the rib tends to go very deep in and comes out or they seem to be gasping for breath,” she explained.

She asked those with such symptoms to quickly seek medical attention before the pneumonia advances from non-severe to too severe.

The medic called for strict adherence to prevention measures proposed by the World Health Organization and the Ministry of Health to prevent the disease and keep it from spreading to loved ones.

Among the prevention measures, she said, are to observe personal hygiene and hygiene among the health workers through handwashing to prevent transmission of bacteria from one person to another.

She also encouraged mothers to observe exclusive breastfeeding of their babies up to six months noting that breastmilk has a lot of antibodies that the baby gets from the mother helping to minimize the occurrence of respiratory illnesses.

Dr. Marangachi noted there are pneumonia vaccinations administered at the sixth week, the tenth week and the 14th week such as the pneumococcal vaccine and the Haemophilus influenza vaccination, which are important in preventing the disease.

“Use of clean fuel is also important. Our mothers are supposed to cook with clean fuel, we should avoid the use of Jikos and kerosene and ensure the rooms, where we are cooking from are well-ventilated so that we are using clean air and prevent the use of air that is contaminated by fuel,” she explained.

Another consultant pediatrician at the Kakamega General Hospital Dr. Bonface Nyubile asked medical officers, interns, clinical officers, and nurses to be in a position to make the correct diagnosis of pneumonia and initiate proper treatment as early as possible to reduce mortalities.

The Kakamega County Coordinator of Child Health Programs, Rose Muhanda said Kakamega County has made tremendous progress in the management and treatment of pneumonia and control the rate of mortalities arising from the disease.

“So we are thinking with support from our health workers and pediatricians we can provide information to healthcare providers so that they can be able to provide proper diagnosis and treatment to pneumonia patients,” She added.

By Moses Wekesa

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