How MSF teams treat pneumonia patients
28 September 2000
Ideally, a child with bronchopneumonia should be admitted to hospital for treatment and observation. In practice, however, this is not always possible, especially in isolated rural areas. MSF teams will often treat milder cases on an outpatient basis, which means that the child is given enough treatment for one day and its mother is requested to return for follow-up in the morning. Most cases of bronchopneumonia respond well to antibiotics. The ones used most commonly in the field are penicillin, ampicillin, and cotrimoxazole. These are all relatively cheap and MSF teams stock them in all their dispensaries and hospitals. If the child is too ill to take them by mouth an MSF nurse of doctor will set up an IV drip to give the antibiotics through the vein. Alternatively, some forms of penicillin can be given by an intramuscular injection. Cough mixtures are not used, because they tend to suppress the cough reflex and thus prolong the pneumonia. Instead, MSF nurses teach the mothers how to perform simple chest physiotherapy on their children. They lie the child face down over their lap and pat its back with a cupping action of the hands. This helps loosen the phlegm so that the child can clear it from its chest and breathe more easily.