Pneumonia is a common infection that affects more than three million people in the US each year. It’s a scary disease that mothers commonly worry about when their little ones get a fever or start wheezing. Luckily, it’s a treatable infection.
If you know what to look for and how to detect the signs of pneumonia, you can ensure that your child gets fast treatment.
What Is Pneumonia?
Pneumonia is a lung infection that may affect one or both lungs. It’s spread through bacteria, fungi, parasites, or viruses. Viruses act as the leading cause of pneumonia for children.
After some research, I was surprised to find that pneumonia often starts after an infection in the nose or throat. The lungs collect the infected fluids, leading to a lung infection. That is why kids are more prone to pneumonia when they’re already sick.
Pneumonia often starts two or three days after the start of an upper respiratory tract infection. It then progresses to the lungs, resulting in pneumonia.
Bacterial pneumonia typically spreads quickly. You may notice that your child suddenly has a fever and begins to breathe fast. Viral pneumonia spreads slowly and it may take a little while before you notice some of the symptoms.
There are also several things that can increase your child’s risk for pneumonia. A weakened immune system, premature birth, asthma, heart defects, poor nutrition, and even secondhand smoke all increase the risk factors for pneumonia.
Most Common Symptoms of Pneumonia in Children
One of the most obvious signs of pneumonia is difficulty breathing. As pneumonia is a lung infection, it affects the lungs. Your child may have shortness of breath or chest pain when he or she breathes deeply.
It’s not always easy to determine if a child is having trouble breathing. Sometimes he or she may simply be about to spit up or start coughing. However, there are a few signs that you can look for:
● The nostrils tend to open wider when inhaling.
● He or she may start to wheeze when he or she breathes.
● He or she takes short, fast breaths.
Along with difficulty breathing, there are other symptoms of pneumonia. However, the severity and occurrence of these symptoms may depend on the age of your child and the type of pneumonia.
If you suspect that pneumonia is the cause of your child’s suffering, pay attention to the following potential signs:
● Shortness of breath
● Fever and chills
● Chest pain
● Abdominal pain
● Lack of appetite
● Bluish extremities
Your child may also cry more than usual or become irritable easily. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to separate some of these symptoms from normal fluctuations in your child’s mood.
Any kid can be extra fussy or irritable without explanation. He or she may simply be tired, confused, or hungry. However, when you notice a combination of these symptoms, you should schedule a trip to the doctor immediately.
When Should You Seek Treatment for Pneumonia?
Child health specialists recommend that take your child to the doctor as soon as you can if you suspect that he or she is ill. Difficulty breathing, wheezing, and coughing are a few of the most common signs of pneumonia. However, the common cold may also produce similar symptoms.
You should never attempt to diagnose your own child. As mothers, we always suspect the worst. It’s better to reserve your personal diagnosis. Call your pediatrician immediately and schedule an appointment. In most cases, your pediatrician should be able to squeeze you in within the next 24 hours.
If the symptoms are severe and your child cannot rest at all, a trip to the emergency room may be necessary. Do not ignore a high fever or bluish skin. When in doubt, emergency services are the best option.
Other reasons to seek immediate treatment include severe dehydration and wheezing or if your child is less than three months old and experiencing some of the symptoms described.
You can also take your child’s temperature using a home thermometer. For children over the age of six months, a temperature of 102 degrees Fahrenheit or higher is a fever. For children younger than six months, 100.4 degrees is the cutoff.
With fast treatment, pneumonia may not pose a major health risk. However, children have little bodies and tiny lungs. These infections are serious matters. Do not hesitate to contact your family physician or child’s pediatrician.
How Do Doctors Diagnose Pneumonia in Children?
When you take your child to the doctor, he or she may need to perform a series of tests to diagnose pneumonia. The exam typically starts with a check of your child’s lungs. The doctor will use a stethoscope to listen to his or her breathing.
Sometimes this quick exam may verify the presence of pneumonia. However, the pediatrician may perform a few additional tests to confirm the diagnosis, such as:
● Blood tests
● Chest x-rays
● Mucus sample
A blood test can help uncover the presence of bacteria or an infection, confirming or denying pneumonia. Chest x-rays also help look for signs of potential infection in the lungs. The mucus sample may help determine which medicine is best suited for treating the specific infection.
Typical Treatments for Pneumonia in Children
If your doctor diagnoses your child with pneumonia, your child may need to stay at the hospital. The treatment depends on the age of the child and the severity of the illness.
When your child experiences severe symptoms, such as difficulty breathing and a high fever, doctors often recommend inpatient treatment. Pneumonia can result in a depletion of oxygen in the blood. If your child’s blood oxygen levels are low, he or she may need extra oxygen. In these cases, doctors almost always recommend inpatient treatment.
With bacterial pneumonia, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to kill the bacterial infection.
Your doctor may prescribe additional medication to deal with the fever, pain, and swelling. For example, he or she may recommend NSAIDs for children over six months of age. He or she may also prescribe acetaminophen for the fever and pain. However, you should always review these medications, especially if your child already takes medications.
Make sure that you tell your doctor about any existing health conditions or medications that your child takes. It’s essential that you avoid negative interactions between medications.
With proper treatment, doctors may cure your child’s bacterial pneumonia within one to two weeks. Viral pneumonia sometimes takes longer. You may wait four to six weeks before the symptoms completely clear.
Treating Your Child’s Pneumonia at Home
If your pediatrician doesn’t recommend inpatient treatment, he or she will send you home with a series of instructions. Along with medications, the pediatrician may suggest plenty of liquids and rest.
Ask about the types of liquids and how much liquid your child should drink. Typically, doctors recommend plenty of water. However, they may also recommend popsicles, broth, or apple juice.
Liquids are necessary for helping to loosen mucus, which aids the process of clearing the lungs of infected mucus. Using a cool mist humidifier may also help with this process.
Your child also needs plenty of rest for a speedy recovery. Allow your child to get all the rest that he or she needs for the next few weeks.
How to Reduce the Risk of Pneumonia
You may also want to know how to keep your little one from catching pneumonia in the first place. The first tip is to make sure that you keep your child away from secondhand smoke. Do not let anyone smoke around your child.
Washing hands is also important, not only for preventing pneumonia but for keeping other diseases at bay as well. You should wash both your hands and your child’s hands frequently. Hand washing is especially important when you get home from running errands, play dates, or trips to the park.
In fact, I take sanitizing wipes and sanitizer everywhere I go. It’s easy to pack these items in your purse or baby bag. They’re also handy when you need to quickly wipe off your child’s favorite toy after it falls on the ground.
If other children are sick, it’s best to keep your kid away. This also applies to your own child. If one child in the family is sick, try to let the other children know that they should avoid physical contact. While this is easier said than done, it may help prevent having to deal with a sick household.
Conclusion: Dealing with Pneumonia in Children
Any time that a child is sick, it’s common for mothers to worry. It’s our job. While any sickness can be scary, mothers often fear pneumonia more than most other illnesses.
If you notice any of the signs of pneumonia, do not hesitate to call your pediatrician or family physician. Even if you don’t think that it’s an emergency, most offices can fit you in within the next day or two.
If the symptoms are severe, you may not want to wait for a scheduled appointment. When your child’s hands, lips, or nails turn blue or he or she has trouble breathing, visit the emergency room as soon as you can.
As a final tip for dealing with pneumonia and family health, keep your sick child away from others. While pneumonia itself is rarely contagious, the infection that led to pneumonia may spread. Follow the same precautions as you would for any illness, such as a cold. Everyone needs to wash his or her hands frequently and avoid sharing utensils and drinking glasses.
With the right precautions, you can reduce the risk of your child catching pneumonia. However, if your child does come down with one of these infections, fast treatment is the best option.