Pneumonia, Child

ExitCare ImagePneumonia is an infection of the lungs. There are many different types of pneumonia.


Pneumonia can be caused by many types of germs. The most common types of pneumonia are caused by:

  • Viruses.

  • Bacteria.

Most cases of pneumonia are reported during the fall, winter, and early spring when children are mostly indoors and in close contact with others. The risk of catching pneumonia is not affected by how warmly a child is dressed or the temperature.


Symptoms depend on the age of the child and the type of germ. Common symptoms are:

  • Cough.

  • Fever.

  • Chills.

  • Chest pain.

  • Abdominal pain.

  • Feeling worn out when doing usual activities (fatigue).

  • Loss of hunger (appetite).

  • Lack of interest in play.

  • Fast, shallow breathing.

  • Shortness of breath.

A cough may continue for several weeks even after the child feels better. This is the normal way the body clears out the infection.


The diagnosis may be made by a physical exam. A chest X-ray may be helpful.


Medicines (antibiotics) that kill germs are only useful for pneumonia caused by bacteria. Antibiotics do not treat viral infections. Most cases of pneumonia can be treated at home. More severe cases need hospital treatment.


  • Cough suppressants may be used as directed by your caregiver. Keep in mind that coughing helps clear mucus and infection out of the respiratory tract. It is best to only use cough suppressants to allow your child to rest. Cough suppressants are not recommended for children younger than 4 years old. For children between the age of 4 and 6 years old, use cough suppressants only as directed by your child's caregiver.

  • If your child's caregiver prescribed an antibiotic, be sure to give the medicine as directed until all the medicine is gone.

  • Only take over-the-counter medicines for pain, discomfort, or fever as directed by your caregiver. Do not give aspirin to children.

  • Put a cold steam vaporizer or humidifier in your child's room. This may help keep the mucus loose. Change the water daily.

  • Offer your child fluids to loosen the mucus.

  • Be sure your child gets rest.

  • Wash your hands after handling your child.


  • Your child's symptoms do not improve in 3 to 4 days or as directed.

  • New symptoms develop.

  • Your child appears to be getting sicker.


  • Your child is breathing fast.

  • Your child is too out of breath to talk normally.

  • The spaces between the ribs or under the ribs pull in when your child breathes in.

  • Your child is short of breath and there is grunting when breathing out.

  • You notice widening of your child's nostrils with each breath (nasal flaring).

  • Your child has pain with breathing.

  • Your child makes a high-pitched whistling noise when breathing out (wheezing).

  • Your child coughs up blood.

  • Your child throws up (vomits) often.

  • Your child gets worse.

  • You notice any bluish discoloration of the lips, face, or nails.


  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch this condition.

  • Will get help right away if your child is not doing well or gets worse.