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Pneumonia is an infection in the lungs. If your child has pneumonia, you’re likely to notice changes in his breathing, as well as symptoms such as a high fever and a nasty cough.

Causes

Pneumonia is usually caused by a virus, but can also be caused by a germ (bacteria). The infection affects the lungs. The lungs’ job is moving oxygen from the air into the bloodstream, but when the lungs are infected, they can’t do this job as well as normal.

Symptoms

If your child has pneumonia, she’ll have a moist cough and a high fever. She might also be short of breath, and complain of sharp chest pains when she breathes deeply or coughs.

Your younger baby might just look very ill and breathe rapidly, without showing any other symptoms.

Young babies and children with severe pneumonia are also at risk of dehydration.

When to see your doctor

You should take your child to the doctor if:

  • your child has a cough and a high fever
  • your young baby is listless and breathing rapidly
  • your baby doesn’t improve after three days on antibiotics.
Call an ambulance immediately if your child’s lips look blue.

Tests

Your doctor might send your child for a chest X-ray to check that your child definitely has pneumonia. Blood tests can also be helpful in some cases.

Treatment

Antibiotics are used to treat pneumonia caused by bacteria. It can be hard to tell the difference between viral and bacterial pneumonia, so your doctor might give your child antibiotics just to be safe.

In mild cases of pneumonia, your child can have treatment at home, using oral medication and paracetamol to reduce the fever. It’s also important to make sure your child doesn’t get dehydrated, so give him small sips of fluid often.

Smoke can make pneumonia worse, so keep your home smoke-free.

If your child is very ill, or less than three months old, she’ll probably need to go into hospital to have her condition monitored. She’ll be given antibiotics and oxygen, if she needs it.

Recovery is usually quick and complete once treatment begins.

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  • Last Updated 13-05-2011
  • Last Reviewed 13-05-2011
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