Pneumonia is inflammation of the lungs caused by infection. Most pneumonias in children are the result of a viral upper respiratory infection that has spread to the lungs, but pneumonia can also be caused by a bacterial infection. Dr. Green, can you tell us more?
Of course, Dr. Patel. Many of the viral and bacterial infections that can lead to pneumonia are spread through tiny air droplets released when a person coughs, sneezes, or talks, or by direct contact with an infected person's saliva or mucus. These infections are more common in the fall and winter, when children spend more time indoors in close contact with others.
Pneumonia is generally accompanied by a fever, which may cause sweating, chills, flushed skin, and general discomfort. Children with pneumonia may have less of an appetite and seem less energetic than normal.
Because pneumonia is an infection of the lungs, it often causes breathing difficulties. Signs of breathing problems you may notice in your child include:
- Fast, labored breathing
- Increased activity of the breathing muscles below and between the ribs and above the collarbone
- Flaring of the nostrils
- Chest pain, especially with coughing or deep breathing
- Wheezing, or
- Bluish lips or nails
In past generations, pneumonia was an extremely dangerous condition, but today, most children can recover fairly easily with proper treatment. Viral pneumonias usually improve on their own with no specific treatment, but acetaminophen or ibuprofen may be used to reduce fever. Ibuprofen should only be used for children six months or older. It's also important to make sure your child gets plenty of rest and stays well hydrated. Bacterial pneumonias can be treated with antibiotics.