Cases of childhood pneumonia have risen by more than 50%, according to data from NHS Digital.
The data, analyzed by Unicef and Save the Children, revealed that there were 56,210 emergency room admissions in England for pneumonia in people aged 18 or younger between April 2018 and March 2019. Between April 2008 and March 2009 there were 36,862 admissions.
This increase is due to a sharp increase in bronchiolitis, according to the data.
Pneumonia is especially prevalent during the fall and winter months. It is often caused by a bacterial infection, which leads to inflammation of the tiny air sacs in the lungs.
“It can lead to breathing difficulties,” Dr Nitin Shori, medical director of the Pharmacy2U Online Doctor service, told HuffPost UK. “In some cases, pneumonia can lead to serious complications and can even be fatal.”
What is pneumonia?
“Pneumonia is the medical name given to an inflammation of the soft tissues in the lungs,” says Dr. Shori.
“Infection with the bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae is the most common cause of ‘community’ pneumonia. But it can also be caused by a virus or even by exposure to certain types of fungi.
The disease can affect people of any age, but can be more severe for vulnerable patients, including young children, the elderly, and people with serious pre-existing health conditions.
According to the NHS, symptoms of pneumonia may develop suddenly over 24 to 48 hours, or they may appear more slowly over several days.
Common symptoms include: cough (which may produce thick, colored mucus), difficulty breathing, rapid heartbeat, fever, general feeling of being unwell, sweating and chills, loss of appetite or chest pain.
Less common symptoms include: coughing up blood, headache, fatigue, nausea or vomiting, wheezing, joint and muscle pain, and confusion.
“A doctor will normally diagnose pneumonia using symptoms described by a patient and a lung exam,” says Dr. Shori.
“Other tests are sometimes needed because pneumonia can be difficult to diagnose because it shares many characteristics with less serious conditions, including coughs and colds.
“A chest X-ray and blood tests may be helpful in establishing the diagnosis.”
Dr Shori says: “Pneumonia patients are usually given antibiotics and advised to rest and drink plenty of fluids.
“People at high risk of pneumonia may often be offered vaccination against the pneumococcal vaccine.”
He concludes: “Anyone who thinks they have pneumonia should see a GP. It is important for anyone with breathing difficulties to seek emergency medical attention.