Pediatric Pneumonia

What is pediatric pneumonia?

Pneumonia is an infection that affects the air sacs of the lungs. The infection can be caused virally or by bacteria. When this occurs in a child younger than 10, it is known as pediatric (or childhood) pneumonia. The main symptoms are a fever, coughing and shortness of breath. These symptoms may begin quite suddenly, or may follow another illness, such as a cold or the flu. Medication to treat pneumonia targets the cause of the infection.

Risks

Only children younger than 10 years of age are affected. Newborns and children with other medical conditions are more likely to get pneumonia. Viruses are a common cause of pneumonia in children. Bacterial causes are less common, and other causes are even rarer.

Symptoms

Typical symptoms include fever, cough, shortness of breath, wheezing, and chest pain. Symptoms are caused by infection and inflammation in the lungs, which causes fluid to collect in the lung sacs.These symptoms may begin quite suddenly, or may follow another illness, such as a cold or the flu.

Diagnosis

The diagnosis is made by a doctor assessing symptoms, examining the child and testing phlegm (material coughed up from airways) for viruses, bacteria or other causes. X-raying the chest is often also necessary to make the diagnosis.

Treatment

The cause of the infection should be investigated by a doctor before starting therapy. Depending on the cause and how severe the symptoms are, the doctor may prescribe a medication to target the infection. This might be an antibiotic or an antiviral medication. Children with severe pneumonia may require admission to hospital for oxygen therapy and may need their recovery monitored.

Prevention

Taking care to prevent the spread of colds or the flu in the home and community can help prevent some cases of pneumonia. Childhood vaccinations can help prevent some cases of pneumonia due to certain viral and bacterial illnesses. If a child is too young to be vaccinated, some cases can be avoided by making sure family members have had booster vaccinations.

Other names for pediatric pneumonia

  • Childhood lung infection
  • Pneumonia, children
  • Pneumonia, infants