PNEUMONIA

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Last Updated : 3/5/2007
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Dr. Ira Shah
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What is pneumonia ?
Pneumonia means infection of one or both lungs.

How does pneumonia occur ?
Most of the times, pneumonia occurs due to a viral or bacterial infection. 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.
Most of these germs enter the lungs by inhalation of droplets or air filled by these germs. These germs then lead to irritation and inflammation of the lungs leading to fluid filling up the lungs and pneumonia.

What are the symptoms of pneumonia ?
A child with pneumonia has fever, and cough. On a longer duration, he/she will complain of shortness of breath and chest pain. This is due to oxygen not reaching the blood due to inflamed lungs. 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.

What is the treatment for pneumonia ?
Other conditions such as asthma, tonsillitis, sinusitis, pharyngitis may also present as cough and fever. Hence, the doctor may advice certain tests after examining the child. On examination, the doctor may hear crackling sounds in the chest with the stethoscope suggesting that there is extra fluid in the lungs. The doctor may advice X-Ray Chest and blood tests to determine the extent and type of pneumonia. If a child is able to bring out sputum, doctor may advice a sputum test also.
After confirming the diagnosis of pneumonia and determining the extent and type of pneumonia, doctor will prescribe medications. Mild pneumonia also known as walking pneumonia does not require hospitalization and can be treated with oral medicines. For severe pneumonia leading to difficulty in breathing, hospitalization may be required and child may require intravenous fluids, oxygen and antibiotics.
In case of bacterial pneumonia, doctor will prescribe antibiotics. In case of viral pneumonia, antibiotics are not required and medications to decrease congestion and fever such as cough syrups and paracetamol may be prescribed.
Taking rest and drinking plenty of fluids is always required in management of pneumonia.

What are the danger signs of pneumonia ?
The following signs if present are suggestive of serious infection and child showed be rushed to the hospital immediately:
- Severe breathlessness
- Lethargy and refusal to feed
- Child is restless and irritable
- Child is running fever more than 103o F.
- Child is listless and apathic.
- Child appears blue and is unconscious.

How long does it take for recovery ?
Most of the pneumonias recover within 7-10 days.

How to prevent pneumonia ?
Since pneumonia can be caused by a variety of germs, one needs to avoid exposure to these germs. Washing hands with soap and water before you eat and after playing outside helps to kill most of the germs. Avoid smoking, have proper ventilation and sunlight in house. Drink clean and filtered water preferably boiled water. Vaccination with Hib vaccine, Pneumococcal vaccine and Influenza vaccine helps to prevent pneumonia due to Hemophilus influenza, pneumococcus and influenza virus respectively.



Contributor Information and Disclosures Dr. Ira Shah
Consultant Pediatrician, B.J.Wadia Hospital for Children, Mumbai, India


First Created : 1/2/2001
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