Pneumonia in Children

About Pneumonia in Children

Pneumonia means an infection in the lungs. While in the early 1900’s it caused many deaths, it’s far less common today and can usually be treated effectively in most children.

In the United States, children with pneumonia number at about 4% of the population. The highest rates occur in children under the age of twelve months.

Pneumonia Causes

Different types of pneumonia are caused by a wide variety of germs both bacterial and viral. For example, walking pneumonia is an example of bacterial pneumonia called mycoplasma pneumonia.

The most common type of pneumonia in children is viral pneumonia. An example of viral pneumonia is human parainfluenza viruses.

The germs that affect pneumonia in children vary by age and type. For example, bacteria that cause pneumonia of infancy, differ from those that cause the same infection in older children.

Seemingly harmless germs may cause pneumonia in a child with a weakened immune system. But the same germs wouldn’t be a problem in children who are healthy.

Pneumonia Symptoms and Diagnosis

After experiencing mild upper respiratory tract infection symptoms, children who develop pneumonia may develop the following more severe symptoms:

  • Worsening cough
  • Wheezing
  • Chest and abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Labored breathing
  • Decreased breathing
  • Fever

After examining your child and hearing the symptoms, your pediatrician will make the diagnosis. If necessary, a blood culture and a chest x-ray will be done.

Remember, that just because your child has a cough and a fever, doesn’t mean that pneumonia will be the diagnosis. If there are no other respiratory signs such as labored or rapid breathing it’s more likely the symptoms are caused by an upper respiratory tract infection. However, discuss it with your pediatrician just to be safe.

Pneumonia Treatment

Initially, doctors treat all cases of pediatric pneumonia with antibiotics. That’s because in most cases they can’t determine whether or not the pneumonia is viral.

The age and overall health of the child dictate which antibiotic is used. In general, children less than three months old take intravenous antibiotics, oxygen and rehydration treatments in the hospital. Other children may take antibiotics by mouth or even at home.

If, after 48 hours of antibiotic treatment a fever is still present and the child is not improving, the child needs to be re-examined by the doctor.

Fortunately, most children fully recover and do not end up with recurrent pneumonia. If so, an underlying medical reason like a weakened immune system, foreign body aspiration or a lung or bronchi structural defect may be the true cause of the pneumonia.

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