Pneumonia is a general term that refers to an infection of the lungs, which can be caused by a variety of microorganisms.
Most cases of pneumonia are caused by viruses, including adenoviruses, rhinovirus, influenza virus (flu), respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and parainfluenza virus (which causes croup).
Often, pneumonia begins after an upper respiratory tract infection (an infection of the nose and throat), with symptoms of pneumonia beginning after 2 or 3 days of a cold or sore throat.
Symptoms vary depending on the age of the child and the cause of the pneumonia, but common ones include:
unusually rapid breathing (in some cases, this is the only symptom)
breathing with grunting or wheezing sounds
labored breathing that makes the rib muscles retract (when muscles under the ribcage or between ribs draw inward with each breath) and causes nasal flaring
loss of appetite (in older kids) or poor feeding (in infants), which may lead to dehydration
in extreme cases, bluish or gray color of the lips and fingernails
Treatment may include antibiotics for bacterial pneumonia. Antibiotics may also speed recovery from mycoplasma pneumonia and some special cases. There is no clearly effective treatment for viral pneumonia, which usually clears up on its own. Other treatment may include:
- appropriate diet
- increased fluid intake (giving your child more liquids to drink)
- cool mist humidifier in your child's room
- acetaminophen (for fever and discomfort)
- medication for cough
Your child may be treated in the hospital if she is having severe breathing problems. While in the hospital, treatment may include:
- intravenous (IV) or oral antibiotics
- intravenous (IV) fluids, if your child is unable to drink well
- oxygen therapy
- frequent suctioning of your child's nose and mouth (to help get rid of thick secretions)
breathing treatments, as ordered by your child's physician
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