Last Updated : 8/1/2015
Q. What is pneumonia?
Pneumonia is an infection of the small air sacs of the lungs. Pneumonia in children occurs most often in infancy and early childhood. It can be caused by viruses, bacteria, or an object lodged in an air passage. Pneumonia may vary from mild to life-threatening. Usually only part of the lungs are involved. Viral pneumonia is more common in children. Bacterial pneumonia can be a serious illness. Common viruses causing pneumonia are influenza virus, parainfluenzae virus, adenovirus and respiratory synctial virus. Common bacteria causing pneumonia are Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, Hemophilus influenza and pneumococcus.
Pneumonia occurs more often during the winter months and may sometimes occur after a cold. Pneumonia affects all age groups. Recovery usually takes seven to ten days.
Q. What are the symptoms of pneumonia?
The symptoms of pneumonia may be mild or severe and can include:
• Cough with or without sputum.
Most of the younger children cannot bring up their sputum (phlegm) and swallow it leading to sticky stools. Occasionally, they may vomit after a bout of coughing and the vomit may contain phlegm. Older children may cough out the sputum and it may be green, yellow or rust colored suggestive of a bacterial infection.
• Shortness of breath
• Difficulty breathing
• Rapid breathing
• Fatigue ranging from mild tiredness (malaise) to exhaustion.
• Irritability, restlessness, poor appetite, and decreased activity level
• Older children may also complain of: Stomach pains, headache, chest pain
• Grunting noises with breathing and flaring nostrils are signs of severe pneumonia in infants.
Q. How is pneumonia diagnosed?
Based on the above symptoms and after a thorough examination by the pediatrician, children may be subjected to Chest X ray and blood tests for finding the extent and type of pneumonia. . If the child is able to bring out sputum, the doctor may advise a sputum test as well.
Q. How is pneumonia treated?
Antibiotics will be prescribed if the pneumonia may be caused by a bacterial infection. In most cases this can be treated at home with oral antibiotics. If your child is very unwell and not eating and drinking they may require antibiotics to be given through a drip. This means a stay in hospital of usually 24-48 hours.
Q. What precautions should be followed while caring for a child with pneumonia?
• If your child has been prescribed antibiotics, it is important that they are given for the complete course as advised by your doctor
• Do not let anyone smoke near your child as it can worsen symptoms.
• Pain and discomfort can be helped with Paracetamol.
• Encourage a healthy diet and plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.
• Encourage plenty of rest and keep your child at home until they are well. Recovery usually takes seven to ten days.
• The cough may persist for two or more weeks.
Q. How much Paracetamol should I give?
The usual dose is 15mg of paracetamol per kg of body weight, no more often than 4 hourly, no more than 4 doses per day. Do not give regularly for more than two days. Paracetamol liquid comes in two strengths: 120mg/5ml and 250mg/5ml. Please check that you are giving the right dose for the strength you have. Make sure that medicines always have a child proof cap and that bottles are stored out of reach.
Q. What are the danger signs of pneumonia ?
The following signs if present are suggestive of serious infection and the child should be rushed to the hospital immediately:
- Severe breathlessness
- Lethargy and refusal to feed
- Child is restless and irritable
- Child is running fever more than 103 F.
- Child is listless and apathetic.
- Child appears blue and is unconscious.
Q. How can pneumonia be prevented?
Some types of pneumonia can be prevented by vaccines. Children usually get routine immunizations against Haemophilus influenzae and whooping cough (pertussis) beginning at 2 months of age. Vaccines are now also given against the pneumococcus, a common cause of bacterial pneumonia.
The flu vaccine is recommended for kids with chronic illnesses such as heart or lung disorders or asthma.
Antiviral medicine is now available, too, and can be used to prevent some types of viral pneumonia or to make symptoms less severe.
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