Pneumonia is a lung infection caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi.
This article covers community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) in children. This type of pneumonia occurs in healthy children who have not recently been in the hospital or another health care facility.
Pneumonia that affects people in health care facilities, such as hospitals, is often caused by germs that are harder to treat.
Bronchopneumonia - children; Community-acquired pneumonia - children; CAP - children
Viruses are the most common cause of pneumonia in infants and children.
Ways your child can get CAP include:
Risk factors that increase a child's chance of getting CAP include:
Common symptoms of pneumonia in children include:
Symptoms common in children with more severe infections include:
The health care provider will listen to your child's chest with a stethoscope. The provider will listen for crackles or abnormal breath sounds. Tapping on the chest wall (percussion) helps the provider listen and feel for abnormal sounds.
If pneumonia is suspected, the provider will likely order a chest x-ray.
Other tests may include:
The provider must first decide whether your child needs to be in the hospital.
If treated in the hospital, your child will receive:
Your child is more likely to be admitted to the hospital if he:
If your child has CAP caused by bacteria, he will be given antibiotics. Antibiotics are not given for pneumonia caused by a virus. This is because antibiotics do not kill viruses. Other medicines, such as antivirals, may be given if your child has the flu.
Many children can be treated at home. If so, your child may need to take medicines such as antibiotics or antivirals.
When giving antibiotics to your child:
Breathing warm, moist (wet) air helps loosen the sticky mucus that may make your child feel like she is choking. These steps may help:
Make sure your child drinks plenty of liquids, as long as the provider says it is OK.
Make sure your child gets plenty of rest when she goes home. Have her take naps, if needed.
Most children improve in 7 to 10 days with treatment. Children who have severe pneumonia with complications may need treatment for 2 to 3 weeks. Children at risk for severe pneumonia include:
In some cases, more serious problems may develop, including:
The provider may order another x-ray. This is to make sure that your child's lungs are clear. It may take many weeks for the x-ray to clear up. Your child may feel better for awhile before the x-rays are clear.
Call the provider if your child has the following symptoms:
Teach older children to wash their hands often:
Vaccines may help prevent some types of pneumonia. Be sure to get your child vaccinated with:
When infants are too young to be immunized, parents or caregivers can get themselves immunized against vaccine-preventable pneumonia.
Bradley JS, Byington CL, Shah SS, et al. Executive summary: 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. cid.oxfordjournals.org/content/53/7/617.full.pdf+html.
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