Pneumonia In Children

The earliest pneumonia symptoms experienced by an individual who has a pneumonia infection often mimic the symptoms of a common cold or flu. This is what makes an unusual or prolonged cough in children so worrisome for parents, as this could indicate the signs of pneumonia. While only a health care provider can diagnose pneumonia in children, knowing the signs of pneumonia could help you determine whether your child is at risk for this contagious infection.

What is Pneumonia?

Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs that most commonly affects older adults or individuals with chronic illness or immune disorders. This makes children with weaker immune systems more susceptible to pneumonia; however, even healthy children can be infected with pneumonia.

Pneumonia occurs when bacteria or viruses such as the flu virus, adenovirus or the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) get caught in lung tissue and multiply. The most common bacterium that causes pneumonia, however, is the pneumococcus bacterium.

Pneumonia Symptoms

When pneumonia strikes, a person's lungs may fill up with fluids such as pus, causing difficulty breathing. When the causes of pneumonia are bacterial infections, pneumonia symptoms may appear quickly after infection. In cases where viral infections occur, pneumonia symptoms may appear more gradually. The following are common signs of pneumonia in children:

  • moderate to severe coughing
  • unusually rapid or difficult breathing for prolonged periods
  • fever and/or chills
  • consistent chest pains including in between coughing fits
  • vomiting
  • blue coloration in the face and around the lips (due to a lack of oxygen)
  • wheezing
  • loss of appetite
  • exhaustion

    The three most important signs of pneumonia in a child is the combination of coughing, difficulty breathing, and fever. Contact a health care provider if your child has any of the above signs of pneumonia. If your child is blue in the face or lips, this indicates that she is in need of oxygen and it is critical that she receive care from a hospital emergency room.

    Types of Pneumonia

    A doctor can diagnose the type of pneumonia in children based on the types of symptoms experienced. For instance, mycoplasma pneumoniae can include symptoms such as a sore throat and headache. This type of pneumonia is sometimes referred to as walking pneumonia since it is a mild form of pneumonia. When pneumonia infects both lungs, it is termed double pneumonia.

    Pneumonia Complications

    The health complications associated with pneumonia largely depend on the severity of the infection. Pneumonia is most dangerous when it fills up the lungs and affects an individual's ability to breathe. This condition can be fatal. In addition, pneumonia may spread to the bloodstream and infect other organs in the body. In some cases, a lung abscess containing pus may form, and require surgical removal.

    Pneumonia Prevention in Children

    The following are some measures which parents can take in order to prevent pneumonia in children:

    • receiving a preventative vaccine known as pneumococcal conjugate vaccine or Prevnar is sometimes recommended in children
    • receiving a flu shot since influenza can lead to pneumonia
    • eating a healthy diet and getting adequate rest
    • teaching children proper hand washing
    • avoid sharing objects such as utensils with individuals with pneumonia

    Speak to your doctor about appropriate vaccinations for your child.

    Treatments for Pneumonia

    Most types of pneumonia will last up to two to three weeks. Treatments of pneumonia include the following:

    • antibiotics for bacterial infections
    • chest pounding therapy. This involves taking the child into the shower and allowing her to breathe in the steam for ten minutes. Specific techniques are then followed to clap on the child's chest for one minute at a time intermittingly
    • cough medicine such as expectorant and cough suppressant may be recommended if the child's cough is extremely bothersome. In most cases, it is important for a child to cough in order to release mucus

    A health care provider can give you more specific instructions on the treatment of pneumonia. However, there are some measures that can be taken in order to alleviate pneumonia symptoms ,including the use of a humidifier, drinking plenty of fluids, and resting.