How can I prevent pneumonia

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Families can help prevent pneumonia by making sure babies are exclusively breastfed for the first six months and that all children are well nourished and fully immunized.

Breastfeeding helps to protect babies from pneumonia and other illnesses. It is important to give breastmilk alone for the first six months of a baby's life.

After six months of age, a child should eat a variety of healthy foods and continue to breastfeed, to ensure that she or he gets the nutrients necessary to stay healthy and be less susceptible to respiratory infections and other illnesses. Some examples of healthy foods include fruits and vegetables (including green leafy vegetables), liver, red palm oil, dairy products, fish and eggs.

Safe water and good hygiene practices help to reduce the number of respiratory infections and other illnesses, such as diarrhoea. These practices include washing vegetables and fruits, keeping food preparation surfaces clean, and washing hands with soap and water or with a substitute, such as ash and water.

Every child should complete a recommended series of immunizations. Early protection is critical; the immunizations in the first year and into the second year are especially important. The child will then be protected against measles, pertussis (whooping cough), tuberculosis and other respiratory illnesses, which can lead to pneumonia.

Parents and other caregivers should ensure that both girls and boys are equally provided with a varied and healthy diet and all immunizations. Health workers can provide parents and other caregivers with information on diets, hygiene and immunizations and how they protect against pneumonia and other illnesses.

Children are more likely to get pneumonia and other breathing illnesses if they live in an environment with smoke. Exposure to smoke can harm a child, even before birth. Pregnant women should not smoke or be exposed to smoke. Babies especially should be kept out of smoky kitchens and away from cooking fires. Adolescents should be encouraged to avoid smoking and caution their friends about its dangers.

Second-hand smoke is particularly harmful to young children. It stays in the air for hours after cigarettes, pipes or cigars have been put out. Non-smokers who inhale this smoke are more vulnerable to respiratory infections, asthma and cancer.