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Pneumonia in Children
is an infection in one or both lungs. Pneumonia can be caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites. Viruses are usually the cause of pneumonia in children. Children with viral pneumonia can also develop bacterial pneumonia. 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. Pneumonia can also develop if foreign material, such as food or stomach acid, is inhaled into the lungs.
Common symptoms include the following:
The signs and symptoms depend on your child's age and the cause of his or her pneumonia. The signs and symptoms of bacterial pneumonia usually begin more quickly than they do with viral pneumonia. Your child may have any of the following:
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath or trouble breathing
- Chest pain when your child coughs or breathes deeply
- Abdominal pain near your child's ribs
- Poor appetite
- Crying more than usual, or more irritable or fussy than normal
- Pale or bluish lips, fingernails, or toenails
Seek care immediately if:
- Your child is younger than 3 months and has a fever.
- Your child is struggling to breathe or is 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
- Dry mouth or cracked lip
- More irritable or fussy than normal
- Sleepier than usual
- Urinating less than usual or not at all
- Sunken soft spot on the top of the head if your child is younger than 1 year
Contact your child's healthcare provider if:
- 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 cannot stop coughing.
- Your child is vomiting.
- You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.
- Antibiotics may be given if your child has bacterial pneumonia. Viral pneumonia will usually go away without antibiotics.
- NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If your child takes blood thinner medicine, always ask if NSAIDs are safe for him. Always read the medicine label and follow directions. Do not give these medicines to children under 6 months of age without direction from your child's healthcare provider.
- Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to give your child and how often to give it. Follow directions. Read the labels of all other medicines your child uses to see if they also contain acetaminophen, or ask your child's doctor or pharmacist. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.
- Your child may need extra oxygen if his blood oxygen level is lower than it should be. Your child may get oxygen through a mask placed over his nose and mouth or through small tubes placed in his nostrils. Ask your child's healthcare provider before you take off the mask or oxygen tubing.
Manage your child's symptoms:
- 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.
- Give your child liquids as directed. Liquids help your child to loosen mucus and keeps him or her from becoming dehydrated. Ask how much liquid your child should drink each day and which liquids are best for him or her. Your child's healthcare provider may recommend water, apple juice, gelatin, broth, and popsicles.
- 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.
- Do not let anyone smoke around your child. Smoke can make your child's coughing or breathing worse.
- Get your child vaccinated. Vaccines protect against viruses or bacteria that cause infections such as the flu, pertussis, and pneumonia.
- Prevent the spread of germs. Wash your hands and your child's hands often with soap to prevent the spread of germs. Do not let your child share food, drinks, or utensils with others.
- Keep your child away from others who are sick with symptoms of a respiratory infection. These include a sore throat or cough.
Follow up with your child's healthcare provider as directed:
Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your child's visits.
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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.
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