Pneumonia in Kids: Causes, Symptoms and More

pneumonia in kids

One of the most common childhood conditions, pneumonia is fairly common affecting 150 to 156 million kids worldwide. While in the US, pneumonia is manageable and not deemed as a life-threatening disease, but in developing countries where there is still a dearth of modern treatment options, pneumonia is life-threatening to children. As per the reports by the WHO, a child loses a life every 20 seconds due to pneumonia and it sums up to 16% of all juvenile deaths under 5 years of age.

It is important to identify the symptoms of pneumonia in a child as it is very subtle and is not a nagging fever or cold, unlike adults. Children also contract the disease very easily as their immune system is weak and in a developing stage. If a child’s immune system is compromised and they are malnourished with limited breast milk, they are at a high risk of developing pneumonia. 

Symptoms of pneumonia in kids:

It is difficult to identify pneumonia in a kid as the symptoms often collide with that of a common cold, but here are some red flags that will help you recognize it is more than just a bad cold.

  • Breathing that is accompanied by wheezing and grunting sound
  • Facing difficulty in breathing
  • Breathing at a fast rate
  • Fever with shaking chills
  • A cough and congested nose
  • Vomiting
  • Chest pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dehydration
  • Lips and nail beds with a bluish tint in extreme pneumonia

Who are at a greater risk?

If your child is on antibiotics for a long time or had been recently hospitalized, he might be at a risk of pneumonia. The other risk factors for pneumonia in a child include asthma, a certain chronic illness, not immunized against diseases like rubeola (measles), chickenpox, pertussis (whooping cough), Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib) infections or the seasonal flu.

Also if one or both the parents smoke around the kids, they may be susceptible to catching pneumonia.

Causes of Pneumonia in kids:

Pneumonia is caused by various pathogens like bacteria, virus, fungi or parasites.

When pneumonia is caused by a virus in kids, it is usually less severe with mild symptoms, though wheezing is common. This pneumonia is often called walking pneumonia where the kids do not exhibit any symptoms of sickness and usually continues with the usual day-to-day activities. Children with walking pneumonia might not need hospitalization.

But bacteria-causing pneumonia is usually aggressive where kids have a sudden high fever and might need immediate medical attention.

When to seek immediate medical attention?

If your child has mild or walking pneumonia, an immediate visit to the doctor might not be necessary, but you must know that your child needs immediate medical attention when:

  • His nostrils flare up when breathing
  • Breathes with muscles below and between the ribs and above the collarbone

Doctors suggest an immediate visit to the emergency room when the child will breathe really fast and the belly muscles work hard to help in breathing.

If it happens that you notice a couple of these symptoms and are not sure if your child is having pneumonia, book an appointment with a doctor who will check for fluids in the child’s lungs by stethoscope or x-ray. 

Treatment of pneumonia:

If your child is having pneumonia, give them enough time to rest along with good food and plenty of water to stay hydrated. Also be sure of the fact that your child is up-to-date with vaccinations. Although there is no specific immunization for pneumonia, a weakened immune system after a preventable illness can cause pneumonia. Instead of giving a cough suppressant to your kid, use a humidifier at night to clear the lungs and keep them at rest. 

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