Pneumonia is an infection in one or both of the lungs. If your child has pneumonia, you’re likely to notice changes in his breathing, as well as symptoms including a high fever, a nasty cough and increased irritability.
Causes of pneumonia
Pneumonia is most often caused by a virus, but it can also be caused by a bacteria.
The infection stops the lungs from working properly.
The main job of the lungs is to move oxygen from the air into the bloodstream. When they’re infected, the lungs can’t do their job as well as normal.
Pneumonia in children: symptoms
If your child has pneumonia, she:
- will have a moist cough and a high fever
- might be short of breath
- might complain of sharp chest pains when she breathes deeply or coughs
- might have a tummy ache and might vomit.
Most children also lose their appetite.
A younger baby might just look very ill and breathe rapidly, without showing any of the other symptoms above.
Young babies and children with severe pneumonia are at risk of dehydration.
When to see your doctor about pneumonia symptoms
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 for pneumonia
The doctor can say whether your child has pneumonia by asking you questions about your child’s symptoms and by examining him.
Your doctor might send your child for a chest X-ray to check that your child definitely has pneumonia. Blood tests can sometimes help doctors to work out whether your child’s pneumonia is caused by a virus or bacteria.
You can treat most children with pneumonia at home.
If your child has mild pneumonia, she needs lots of rest. She should drink small amounts of fluid often so that she doesn’t get dehydrated. You can give your child paracetamol to reduce her fever and help with any pain.
If your child’s pneumonia is caused by bacteria, the doctor might prescribe antibiotics, which your child will need to take for a week or so. Sometimes 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.
Smoke can make pneumonia worse, so keep your home smoke free.
If your child is very ill, or is less than three months old, he’ll probably need to go to hospital for special treatment. In hospital, your child will have antibiotics and perhaps some oxygen to ease his breathing. Your child might also get extra fluids through a drip.
Recovery is usually quick and complete once treatment starts.