Assessing the child with cough or difficult breathing
In most low-income countries, clinical assessment is the only tool available to distinguish an upper respiratory infection (cough or cold) from pneumonia requiring antibiotics. The severity of the pneumonia, determined from the clinical signs, will determine which patients require more potent antibiotic regimens and supplementary oxygen. Careful assessment of the respiratory rate, chest in-drawing, ability to feed normally, cyanosis and level of consciousness are used to make the diagnosis of pneumonia and determine the severity. Co-morbid disease such as malnutrition, measles, HIV infection and malaria increase mortality due to pneumonia, and signs of these diseases must be looked for so that appropriate treatment can be started. This article carefully describes the signs that should be looked for in children presenting with a cough or difficult breathing to any health care worker. © 2005 The Union.