Viral Pneumonia, Infant

Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs. Several types of germs can cause pneumonia. Viruses (a kind of germ) are a common cause of pneumonia in infants. Some cases of viral pneumonia are mild, while others may require hospitalization.


Different viruses can cause pneumonia. These infections often start as a common cold. The infection spreads from the upper air passages and nose into the deep air passages in the lungs. Another person or family member may have spread the virus to your infant.


Your infant may have:

  • Cough.

  • Fever.

  • Runny nose.

  • Poor appetite.

  • Difficulty nursing or sucking on a bottle.

  • Fussy behavior.

  • Noisy breathing.

  • Decreased activity and sleep.

  • Fast and difficult breathing.

  • Grunting sound when breathing out.

  • Vomiting.


Diagnosis of pneumonia may be confirmed with a chest x-ray. Blood tests may be done to be sure the pneumonia is due to a virus. Tests on swabs from the nose for certain viruses can be run.


In mild cases of viral pneumonia, treatment may be done at home. In more severe cases, your infant may be admitted to the hospital. In order to prevent dehydration, fluids may be given intravenously (through the vein).

Your infant may be given:

  • Extra oxygen.

  • Medicines to control the fever.

  • Medicines to treat certain viruses. Antibiotics do not help treat viral pneumonia. However, there are occasional times when a bacterial infection develops "on top of" a viral pneumonia. If your caregiver is concerned that this might be the case, then antibiotics may also be given.


  • Tilt your infant's mattress up to help decrease the congestion in the nose. This may not be practical for an infant who is active in bed.

  • Use a bulb syringe to suction the mucus from your baby's nose if needed.

  • Saline nasal drops can loosen thick nasal mucus. This may help nasal suctioning.

  • Over-the-counter saline nasal drops can be used.

  • Fresh saline nasal drops can be made daily by mixing ¼ teaspoon of table salt in a cup of warm water.

  • Put a drop or two of the saline into one nostril. Leave it for a minute, and then suction the nose. Do this only one side at a time.

  • Offer your infant plenty of fluids to help keep the mucus loose.

  • A vaporizer or humidifier sometimes helps to keep nasal mucus loose.

  • If needed, clean your infant's nose gently with a moist, soft cloth.

  • Before cleaning, put a few drops of saline solution on the outside skin of the nose to wet the area

  • Wash your hands before and after you handle your baby to prevent the spread of infection.


  • Your infant vomits with coughing.

  • Your infant pulls or tugs at the ears frequently.

  • Your infant wakes up crying.

  • Your baby is older than 3 months with a rectal temperature of 100.5° F (38.1° C) or higher for more than 1 day.


  • Your infant has trouble breathing. Watch for:

  • Rapid breathing.

  • Grunting sound when breathing out.

  • Sucking of the spaces between and under the ribs.

  • Wheezing (high pitched noise with breathing out or in).

  • Flaring of the nostrils.

  • Blue color around the lips.

  • Your infant coughs up blood.

  • Your infant vomits repeatedly.

  • Your infant is much less active than what you would expect.

  • Your infant feeds poorly for 2 or more days after becoming ill.

  • Your infant is older than 3 months with a rectal temperature of 102° F (38.9° C) or higher.

  • Your infant is 3 months old or younger with a rectal temperature of 100.4° F (38° C) or higher.