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 Pneumonia: The Leading Infectious Cause of Death in Children Under 5 Years of Age

Ministerio de Salud y Protección Social > English > Pneumonia: The Leading Infectious Cause of Death in Children Under 5 Years of Age

Changes in climate conditions and increased rainfall can boost pneumonia cases.

Press release Press Release No. 541, 2022

Bogotá, November 12, 2022. Today, in commemoration of World Pneumonia Day, the Ministry of Health and Social Protection extended its invitation to all territorial health entities in the country to be part of the campaign to prevent the death of minors due to this condition.


Pneumonia is a type of Acute Respiratory Infection (ARI) that affects the lungs, caused mainly by viruses and bacteria that are spread by airborne transmission.


When a child has a mild flu and it is not well managed, these viruses and bacteria move to the lungs, which become inflamed and fill with secretions (mucus), resulting in breathing difficulty.


Given the increase in rains and the second peak of respiratory infections in the year, the Ministry of Health and Social Protection recommends the public and especially fathers, mothers, caregivers of children under five years of age and adults over 60 years to emphasize prevention measures.


"Although there has been a significant decrease in deaths from this cause, there are still nearly 900,000 deaths reported each year, globally, in boys and girls before reaching the age of 5," explained María Belén Jaimes, deputy director of communicable diseases of the Ministry of Health.


Jaimes highlighted that, in Colombia, at the beginning of this millennium, about 1,000 deaths per year were reported from this cause in the child population; however, what is observed in the 2010-2019 period is a progressive and significant decrease, with an average annual record of 480 cases.


"Colombia has a national program for the prevention, management, and control of Acute Respiratory Infection. It is likely that, thanks to the implementation of its strategies and the care by citizens, a considerable decrease in mortality from pneumonia has been registered in boys and girls under 5 years of age, with reports of less than 300 cases," Jaimes explained.




  • Complete vaccination schedules for all children and older people.


  • Feed babies under six (6) months exclusively breast milk uninterruptedly when the baby has the flu.

  • Attend prenatal check-ups when mothers are pregnant and take newborns to follow-ups scheduled by the EPS.

  • Take into account the key messages to prevent the child from getting sick, how to take care of him or her at home, when to consult, recognize a warning sign that presumes seriousness and consult immediately.

  • Wash hands with soap and water several times a day.

  • Avoid sudden changes in temperature, cover the nose and mouth of the girl and the boy when going out to cold places.

  • Stay away from cigarette smoke.

  • Keep spaces and utensils such as toys clean, especially when family members have respiratory symptoms.

  • Avoid contact with people with the flu, everyone with symptoms should wear a mask.

  • When children have the flu, DO NOT send them to educational institutions.


What are your symptoms?


Fever, malaise, stuffy and runny nose (snot) with sounds or wheezing in the chest and shortness of breath.


Consult a doctor immediately if a child under 5 years of age has at least ONE of the following symptoms:


  • Weakness despite not having a fever.


  • Breathes rapidly, "chest wheezes" or makes strange noises when breathing.


  • Ribs sink when breathing (this is the most obvious sign of respiratory distress).

  • Have a persistent fever for more than 2 days.


  • Does not eat anything or vomits everything eaten


  • Has fits or convulsions.


  • Presents a bluish color on the lips and skin.


"The country is going through a long and unusual rainy season, and this is conducive to having viruses, bacteria and, consequently, respiratory infections. It is very important to guarantee that timely care for ARI according to the Clinical Practice Guidelines and to promote key messages for mothers, fathers and caregivers", pointed out the deputy director.


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