Pneumonia is an infection in one or both of the lungs,usually described as chest infection Pneumonia in children can be caused by viruses or bacteria.
Because of the infection, the small airways in the lungs become swollen and make more mucus (sticky fluid). The mucus blocks the airways and reduces the amount of oxygen that is able to get into the body.
Signs and symptoms of pneumonia vary depending on your child's age and the cause of the pneumonia. Children often have one or more of the following:
- High Fever
- Fast and/or difficult breathing –
- Irritability or more tired than usual
- Pain in the chest, especially when coughing
- Abdominal (tummy) aches or pain.
When to see a doctor
You should see your pediatrician if you think your child has any symptom of pneumonia.
Treatment for pneumonia
If your child's pneumonia is caused by bacteria, they will be prescribed antibiotics. In mild cases of bacterial pneumonia, this medicine can be taken orally at home. Children with bacterial pneumonia usually improve within 48 hours of starting antibiotics. It is very important to complete the whole course of antibiotics, even if your child seems much better. Treatment will continue for seven to 10 days. Your child may continue to cough for up to three weeks after treatment, but this is nothing to worry about if they are otherwise getting better.
Children who are very unwell with bacterial pneumonia may be admitted to hospital for antibiotics given directly into a vein through a drip (intravenous or IV therapy). Some children may also need oxygen or extra fluids.
Viral pneumonia is usually not as severe as bacterial pneumonia. However, recovery can be slower, taking up to four weeks. Antibiotics do not cure viruses and are not given for viral pneumonia.
Care at home
After a doctor has diagnosed your child with mild pneumonia, you can usually care for them at home.
- Adequate fluids to prevent dehydration . Offer small sips of water, and offer babies breastmilk or formula more often.
- It may be more comfortable for older children to sleep propped up on a couple of pillows, rather than laying completely flat.
- Do not give cough medicines. They do not help children with pneumonia.
- Do not allow anyone to smoke in the home or around your child.
Key points to remember
- Consult your pediatrician if your child has any symptom of pneumonia
- It is very important for your child to complete the full course of antibiotics if they have been prescribed.
- Cough medicines do not help children with pneumonia.
- If your child has pneumonia they will need to rest and drink small amounts of fluid often to prevent dehydration.