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October 2021

Rev Panam Salud Publica. 1997 Apr; 1(4): 259-65.

[Management of acute respiratory infections in a Kaqchiquel community in Guatemala]

Sáenz de Tejada S.

Instituto de Nutrición de Centro América y Panamá, Guatemala.

Acute respiratory infections (ARI) are among the principal causes of childhood morbidity and mortality in Latin America. In Guatemala, pneumonia is the leading cause of death in young children and is responsible for approximately one-third of the out-patient visits to pediatric services. A large proportion of these deaths result from deficient management, attributable to a failure to recognize the first signs of pneumonia, the presence of barriers that impede immediate care-seeking, consultation with unsuitable providers, or inappropriate treatment recommendations. The purpose of this brief qualitative study was to investigate the perceptions and behaviors with respect to ARI of the residents of San Juan Comalapa, a Kaqchiquel community in the central highlands of Guatemala. Thirty-two mothers were interviewed in their homes to determine how they classified ARI and what signs and symptoms made them seek medical attention immediately. The results revealed that the mothers could recognize the presence of rapid breathing but not that of chest retraction (two important signs of pneumonia). When they sought care for the child, they usually went to physicians or other providers at health centers and occasionally at private clinics, but rarely did they seek care at an early stage of the illness, owing to poor accessibility of the services and underestimation of the severity of the symptoms. This conduct can be modified by education. The authors make recommendations aimed at improving verbal communication between health care providers and mothers.

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