Pneumonia is one of the most deadly diseases around and claims the life of a child every 39 seconds across the world, health experts have warned.
The disease hospitalises six children in the UK every hour and parents are being urged to be alert to the signs of the disease in response to the worrying figures.
A global report by UNICEF highlighted that hospital admissions for pneumonia have risen by more than 50 per cent, with as many as 56,000 emergency child admissions in the past year.
The report warns that the disease killed more children in 2018 than any other disease, with an estimated 800,000 losing their life to pneumonia – amounting to one every 39 seconds.
A total of 27 children in England died from the disease in 2018, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics. Pneumonia can be prevented with vaccines, although 71 million children around the world were not vaccinated last year.
UNICEF said the UK must lead the way in tackling a “forgotten global epidemic that demands an urgent international response”.
Nick Roseveare, interim executive director of UNICEF UK, told The Sun, “We’re lucky in the UK that we have the NHS and a childhood vaccination programme which includes pneumonia and influenza, so fewer children get these illnesses in the first place.
“However, these findings show that for thousands of children outside of the UK, pneumonia is not an illness of the past but a killer in the present that will continue to prematurely take children’s lives if we don’t act now.”
The charity is calling on the UK government to spend more of its overseas aid budget on healthcare.
The warning signs of pneumonia
Pneumonia is typically caused by a bacterial infection and causes inflammation to the tissue in the lungs, causing the tiny air sacs to become inflamed and fill with fluid.
Symptoms of the disease can develop suddenly over 24 to 48 hours, or they more come on more gradually over several days, says the NHS.
Common warning signs of pneumonia include:
- a cough – which may be dry, or produce thick yellow, green, brown or blood-stained mucus
- difficulty breathing – your breathing may be rapid and shallow, and you may feel breathless, even when resting
- rapid heartbeat
- high temperature
- feeling generally unwell
- sweating and shivering
- loss of appetite
- chest pain – which gets worse when breathing or coughing
Less common symptoms of the disease can also include:
- coughing up blood
- feeling sick or being sick
- joint and muscle pain
- feeling confused and disorientated, particularly in elderly people
It is advised you see a GP if you feel unwell and experience typical symptoms of pneumonia.
If you experience severe symptoms, such as rapid breathing, chest pain or confusion, you should seek urgent medical attention immediately.