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Pneumonia In Children


Pneumonia is an infection in one or both lungs. Often, pneumonia begins after an infection of the upper respiratory tract (nose and throat). This causes fluid to collect in the lungs, making it hard to breathe. Children who have a hard time fighting infections or have lung problems are more likely to develop pneumonia.



  • Ibuprofen or acetaminophen: These medicines are given to decrease your child's pain and fever. They can be bought without a doctor's order. Ask how much medicine is safe to give your child, and how often to give it.

  • Read the ingredient labels of all medicines that you give to your child: If your child is using medicine for other symptoms such as cough or cold, read the medicine labels carefully. Many of these medicines may also have ibuprofen or acetaminophen in them. Adding these medicines to the ibuprofen or acetaminophen that your child has already taken may cause him to get too much medicine. Taking too much ibuprofen or acetaminophen could harm your child.

  • Give your child's medicine as directed. Call your child's healthcare provider if you think the medicine is not working as expected. Tell him if your child is allergic to any medicine. Keep a current list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs your child takes. Include the amounts, and when, how, and why they are taken. Bring the list or the medicines in their containers to follow-up visits. Carry your child's medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

  • Do not give aspirin to children under 18 years of age: Your child could develop Reye syndrome if he takes aspirin. Reye syndrome can cause life-threatening brain and liver damage. Check your child's medicine labels for aspirin, salicylates, or oil of wintergreen.

Follow up with your child's primary healthcare provider:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Help your child breathe easier:

  • Teach your child to take a deep breath then cough: Have your child do this when he feels the need to cough up the mucus in his throat. This will help get rid of the mucus in the throat and lungs, making it easier to breathe.

  • Clear your child's nose of mucus: If your child has difficulty breathing through his nose, use a bulb syringe to remove mucus from his nose. You can also use a bulb syringe before you feed him and put him to bed. Removing mucus may help your child breathe, eat, and sleep better.

    • Squeeze the bulb and put the tip into one of your baby's nostrils. Close the other nostril with your fingers. Slowly release the bulb to suck up the mucus.

    • You may need saline nose drops to loosen the mucus in your child's nose. Put 3 drops into 1 nostril. Wait for 1 minute so the mucus can loosen up. Then use the bulb syringe to remove the mucus and saline.

    • Empty the mucus in the bulb syringe into a tissue. You can use the bulb syringe again if the mucus did not come out. Do this again in the other nostril. The bulb syringe should be boiled in water for 10 minutes when you are done, and then left to dry. This will kill most of the bacteria in the bulb syringe for the next use.

  • Keep his head elevated: Your child may be able to breathe better when lying with the head of the crib or bed up. Ask your child's healthcare provider about the best way to elevate your child's head. Make sure your child's head does not flop forward. If this happens, your child will not be able to breathe properly.

  • Use a cool mist humidifier to increase air moisture in your home. This may make it easier for your child to breathe and help decrease his cough.

How to feed your child when he is sick:

  • Your child may become tired easily when feeding. If you bottle feed or breastfeed, you may need to feed your child more often in smaller amounts.

  • Your child may not want to eat solid foods while he is sick. While this is okay, be sure that he drinks plenty of fluids. Ask your primary healthcare provider how much liquid he should drink every day. Good liquids for most children to drink include water, apple juice, gelatin, broth, popsicles, and clear soda.

  • When your child starts to eat solid foods again, give him foods that are easy to digest. Yogurt, applesauce, and pudding are good choices. Feed him small meals often.

Wellness tips:

  • Do not let anyone smoke around your child. Smoke can make your child's coughing or breathing worse.

  • Wash your hands and your child's hands often with soap to prevent the spread of infection.

  • Do not let your child share food, drinks, or utensils with others.

  • Your child may be more tired than usual. He should rest as much as possible and get plenty of sleep.

Contact your child's healthcare provider if:

  • Your child cannot stop coughing.

  • Your child has a fever.

  • Your child has diarrhea or is vomiting.

  • Your child is tugging at his ears or has ear pain.

  • You have questions about your child's condition or care.

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • Your child is under 3 months old and has a fever.

  • Your child is struggling to breathe or wheezing.

  • Your child's lips or nails are bluish.

  • Your child's skin between the ribs and around the neck pulls in with each breath.

  • Your child has any of the following signs of dehydration:

    • Crying without tears

    • Dizziness

    • Dry mouth or cracked lips

    • More irritable or fussy than normal

    • More sleepy than usual

    • Sunken soft spot on the top of the head if your child is less than 1 year old

    • Urinating less than usual or not at all

© 2015 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Pneumonia In Children (Discharge Care)