Pneumonia is an infection deep in the small airways and air sacs of the lungs. The infection will make the air sacs swell and fill with fluid or pus. This causes intense coughing and can make it hard to breathe.
This article will focus on community-acquired pneumonia. It is the type that is spread in community places such as home, school, or daycare.
The doctor will ask about your child’s symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. The doctor may suspect pneumonia based on the exam. Blood and coughed fluids may be tested. These test are not always needed.
Treatment will be based on what germ caused the infection and the child's overall health. More support may be needed if there is a severe infection. A hospital stay may be needed if it becomes difficult to breathe.
Treatment options may include:
Antibiotics—for an infection caused by a bacteria
Antiviral medicines—for an infection caused by viruses
Over the counter medicines to reduce fever and discomfort
Oxygen may need to be given for severe infections. This will help to increase the level of oxygen in the blood.
A hospital stay may be needed if:
Child is not getting enough oxygen into their blood
Child is dehydrated because they are not able to eat or drink enough
Treatments in the hospital may include:
Oxygen therapy to increase levels of oxygen in the blood
Nutrition and fluids through IV
Medicine given through IV
A hospital stay may also be needed for children with weaker immune systems.
Vaccines may help to prevent certain pneumonia. Vaccine schedules for children include:
Flu vaccine—in all children aged 6 months and older
PCV13 is recommended in all children, and routinely given to all children aged 2 months to 5 years
PCV23 in children aged 2 years and older who have a high risk of infection or a suppressed immune system
Hemophilus influenza type B vaccine, routinely given to all children aged 2 months to 5 years
Pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine, routinely given to all children aged 2 months to 5 years as part of the DTaP vaccine
Pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine, routinely given to children 11 years or older as part of the Tdap vaccine
Some children may have a higher risk of pneumonia. Medicine may be given to these children after a cold or the flu to help prevent pneumonia.
To decrease your child’s risk of any airway infection:
Do not expose your child to tobacco smoke. Smoke weakens the lungs' resistance to infection.
Avoid close contact with people who have a cold or the flu.
Bradley JS, Byington CL, et al. The management of community-acquired pneumonia in infants and children older than 3 months of age: clinical practice guidelines by the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society and the Infectious Diseases Society of America. Clin Infect Dis. 2011 Oct;53(7):e25-76.
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