Etnografia De La Infeccion Respiratoria Aguda En Una Zona Rural Del Altiplano Mexicano

Published in: Salud Publica de Mexico, v. 39, No. 3, Mayo-Junio de 1997, p. 207-216

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 1996

by Homero Martinez, K Suriano, Gery W. Ryan, G. H. Pelto

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OBJECTIVE. To identify the terms used by mothers to refer to diseases, signs and symptoms related to acute respiratory illnesses (ARI), alarming signs which should motivate them to seek medical attention, and to describe common home practices of disease care and treatment. MATERIAL AND METHODS. An ethnographic study was performed in six rural communities of the Mexican central highlands. Interviews were collected from 12 key informers, six mothers of children who had died from ARI and 24 mothers of children younger than five years of age, with several ethnographic techniques to complement information (*“triangulation*”). RESULTS. The most commonly identified diseases were cold, sore throat, cough, bronchitis, pneumonia and *“broncomonía*”. Key signs to establish diagnosis included nasal discharge, sore throat, cough, head and body ache, fever, *“bubbling*” chest, general malaise and shortness of breath. Tachypnea was referred to as *“strong breathing*”, *“much breathing*”, *“rapid breathing*” or *“sizzle*”; intercostal depression as *“the chest sinks*”, stridor as *“chest moan or chest snore*”, sibilance as *“chest snore*” and cyanosis as *“he turns purple*”. Home treatments include herbal teas, lemon, green or red tomato or potato applied to the throat externally, as well as creams applied to chest or back. Antibiotic prescription was not common, contrary to antipiretics. Most mothers recognized mild illnesses: severe illnesses were recognized less frequently. When faced with a severe ARI, mothers sought attention firstly at the project clinic, second in frequency with a private physician in the capital of the province and then at the Health Ministry of the district. The reasons to choose these possibilities were mainly proximity and lower costs. CONCLUSIONS. This information can be useful to improve communication with mothers.

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