The high mortality rate of children below the age of one has, no doubt, become alarming, putting the nation’s health sector on a red alert.
However, many parents, it has been discovered, are oblivious of some of the top killer diseases, which they sometimes view as innocuous.
With this dangerous development, pediatric specialists have identified some of such diseases that claim the lives of many infants.
Dr. Atinuke Uwajeh of the Pediatric Partners Hospital Nigeria, says there are some common childhood ailments that parents, especially mothers, don’t take cognisance of.
She identifies auto crash and domestic accidents as the causes of some of such ailments.
The pediatrician explains that infants tend to have accidental trauma when involved in an auto crash in which the baby hits his head on a sharp object.
This, she says, can prove to be something more dangerous because it can result in trauma for the baby.
Severe sepsis is also a disease she says infants suffer from.
According to her, the disease causes poor organ function or insufficient blood flow in the system.
Uwajeh further identifies other dangers to the infant to include domestic accidents, resulting in household injuries, burns, bruises, putting a child in a walker (which mothers erroneously believe will assist their babies in learning to walk early), carrying bowls of hot food or water on one hand and holding the baby with the other as well as improper handling of sharp objects such as knife, blade and scissors, baby falling off from the bed/sofa where laid, or even falling from a height.
Another child care specialist at Mercy Hospital, Lagos Island, Dr. Olubukola Obisesan, says bacterial infection in the blood can also lead to death of infants.
Obisesan also says jaundice, severe birth anesthesia (one of the highest infant killer diseases rated about 30 per cent), which indicates that the baby lacks some nutrients during its mother’s pregnancy and meningitis, which causes the baby to shake and twists his body or neck, are other infant killer diseases.
A family physician and pediatrician, Dr. Rotimi Adesanya, gives further explanations on these infant killer diseases and the dangers they pose.
Adesanya says that neonatal jaundice, which occurs when a baby has a high level of yellow substance in the blood, affects the brain of the child leading to convulsion and in the process, even sudden death.
He further explains that some babies get infected at birth with tetanus on the navel when their umbilical cord were not properly cut off, especially in a situation where the delivery takes place in an unhygienic environment.
According to Adesanya, “Babies below age one develop whooping cough, whereby they start to cough in a dogbarking manner. In such a case, if the infant is not taken care of, he may end up dying.”
He says diarrhea, which causes babies to vomit and stool concurrently, causes dehydration, body weakness and change in the body system.
The pediatrician adds that most of the babies in this condition eventually die of the dryness.
But while Uwajeh says “Shaken Baby Syndrome” isn’t common in this part of the world, Adesanya argues that violent shaking of babies by adults is a very common occurrence in our society, especially among rural women. Adesanya says, “SBS or Abusive Head Trauma is common but because the baby doesn’t die immediately, the brain is affected and develops some neurological problems, especially when the baby is thrown up and down, unaware that the baby’s brain is still flexible. This causes some imbalance in the brain. The child may start convulsing and this can even lead to his death.”
He advises parents and grandparents to avoid throwing babies up and down, adding that there are better ways to calm a baby crying.
ExpErts’ tips on prEvEntion of infant mortality from such diseases
Uwajeh advises parents, especially mothers not to leave their babies alone on the bed or sofa while attending to some other things at home. She also enjoins parents to be observant and take serious interest in any change noticed in the body system of their infants. The pediatrician further says that parents should ensure that their babies do not crawl to where they can be electrocuted, adding that mothers should make sure the child is safe when carried on the back.
Adesanya, on his part, says mothers should be educated and properly counseled on the issue.
He notes that rural women are the usual victims of infant deaths.
According to him, “Immunization and vaccination are other measures needed to be done by mothers, especially following recent reports of decline in some diseases such as small pox, malaria and polio.”
The child care specialists also note that the act of embracing good hygiene, good monitoring of the child, food supplementation, administration of oral hydration salt when a baby is dehydrated, exclusive breastfeeding, family planning aimed at spacing children and paying more attention to them, are factors that can prevent infant mortality.
They, however, appealed to the government to provide essential drugs, equip the primary health care centres and make them accessible to the people.