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Pneumonia In Children


Pneumonia is an infection in one or both lungs. Your child may be fatigued for weeks after his infection is gone.


Return to the emergency department 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 or gray.
  • 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

Contact your child's healthcare provider if:

  • Your child cannot stop coughing.
  • Your child has a fever of 102° F (38.9° C), or above 100.4° F (38° C) if your child is younger than 6 months.
  • Your child is vomiting.
  • You have questions about your child's condition or care.


  • Medicines may be given to treat or prevent pneumonia.
  • Ask your child's healthcare provider before you give your child medicine for his cough. Cough medicines may stop your child from coughing up mucus. Also, children under 6 years old should not take certain over-the-counter cough and cold medicines. Children under 2 should not be given any cough and cold medicines.
  • 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.
  • Give your child's medicine as directed. Contact your child's healthcare provider if you think the medicine is not working as expected. Tell him or her 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.

Follow up with your child's 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 and 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 trouble 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 to use 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. Do not put pillows in the bed of a child younger than 1 year old. 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:

  • Bottle feed or breastfeed your child smaller amounts more often. Your child may become tired easily when feeding.
  • Give your child plenty of liquids to drink. Liquids help your child to loosen mucus and keeps him from becoming dehydrated. Ask your child's 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.
  • Give your child foods that are easy to digest. When your child starts to eat solid foods again, feed him small meals often. Yogurt, applesauce, and pudding are good choices.

Wellness tips:

  • Let your child rest and sleep as much as possible. Your child may be more tired than usual. Rest and sleep help your child's body heal.
  • Get your child vaccinated. Vaccinations are available for viruses or bacteria that cause infections. These infections include flu, pertussis, and pneumonia.
  • Take your child's temperature at least once each morning and once each evening. You may need to take it more often, if your child feels warm. Contact his healthcare provider if his temperature is 102° F (38.9° C), or above 100.4° F (38° C) if your child is younger than 6 months.
  • 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. Use soap and water to wash hands well and prevent the spread of infection.
  • Do not let your child share personal items with others. Items such as food, drinks, and utensils can spread germs to others.

© 2016 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.