Pneumonia is caused by a germ in the air that you breathe. Germs that most often cause community-acquired pneumonia include:
- Viruses—such as flu or cold viruses
- Fungus—more likely to happen in people with other health issues like immune system problems
Pneumonia is more common in children under the age of 5 years.
Other things that may increase your child’s chance of pneumonia include:
- Exposure to tobacco smoke
- Allergies or asthma
- Lack of immunization
- History of respiratory tract infections, such as bronchitis
- Chronic conditions that affect the lungs, such as cystic fibrosis
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Chronic conditions that weaken the immune system
- Birth defects of the heart or lungs
- Neuromuscular disorders that affect the lung function
- Sickle-cell anemia
Pneumonia may cause:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Fever and chills
- Wheezing—a hoarse whistling sound
- Rapid breathing
Children may also:
- Be less active
- Seem irritable
- Have little or no interest in food or feeding
- Have stomach pain or vomiting
- Have a headache
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.
- Encourage your child to wash their hands often.
- Treat any chronic disease.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
Edits to original content made by Denver Health.
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