According to data published by UNICEF, Pneumonia remains the leading cause of death among children under five, killing 2,500 children a day. Pneumonia accounted for 15 percent of all under-five deaths and killed 920,000 children in 2015. Most of its victims were less than two years old. (Source). In spite of this, the good news is that most children make a complete recovery from pneumonia if diagnosed and treated on time. Continue reading to understand the causes, symptoms, prevention, and treatment of pneumonia in children.
What Is Pneumonia In Children?
Pneumonia is nothing but infection in one or both lungs that include swelling of alveoli, the small air passages in the lungs. It is caused by germs like bacteria, parasites, viruses, fungi, etc. Pneumonia is innocuous when mild, but can be life-threatening as the severity increases. Among the kids aged three and younger, most cases of pneumonia are triggered by viruses. While in older children and teenagers, most instances of pneumonia are caused by bacterial infections. Moreover, sometimes, a child could start out with having viral pneumonia, which then turns into bacterial pneumonia, and this can complicate the situation.
What Causes Pneumonia In Children?
Often, pneumonia starts after your child suffers from an upper respiratory tract infection like cold. Sticky fluid (mucous) starts to accumulate in the lung’s air spaces, thereby making it difficult for the lungs to work and reducing the amount of oxygen that is supplied into the body. As a result, the child can develop difficulty in breathing.
Common viruses that cause pneumonia are:
- Human metapneumovirus
- Influenza virus
- Parainfluenza virus
- Respiratory syncytial virus
Some common pneumonia-causing bacteria are:
- Hemophilus influenza
Who Are At The Risk Of Developing Pneumonia?
- Premature babies
- Babies are taking in secondhand smoke. That is if there is a chain smoker in the family, baby inhales the smoke passively
- Children who suffer from chronic lung conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, bronchiectasis or cystic fibrosis
- Children who have recently recovered from an upper respiratory tract infection like cold or influenza
- Children who have some genetic problems, such as sickle-cell anemia
- Children having cardiovascular problems or defects
- Poor nutrition can also bring down the immunity of the child adversely, which in turn makes him more susceptible to pneumonia
- Children having feeding problems, such as aspiration (breathing in a bit of food)
- Children with an immune system that is weak as a result of long-term medication (like steroid)
- Children who have never been immunized or given immunizations on time can easily catch pneumonia when exposed to these viruses
Symptoms Of Pneumonia In Children
The signs and symptoms of pneumonia depend on the age and cause of pneumonia in children. Signs of bacterial pneumonia appear faster (over a day) than viral pneumonia (gradual development over days). In addition, the intensity of the symptoms varies according to severity. The most common signs and symptoms of pneumonia in children are:
- High fever
- Rapid breathing
- Flaring of nostrils
- Chest pain
- Labored breathing
- Loss of appetite
- Shaking chills
- Abdominal pain due to persisting cough
- Wheezing sound while breathing
- Decreased activities
How Is Pneumonia Diagnosed In Children?
If the doctor suspects pneumonia, he will order a chest x-ray for the child. It will reveal how bad the pneumonia is. Blood tests, mucous tests, and sputum tests are also performed to diagnose the cause of pneumonia. Pulse oximetry determines the amount of oxygen in the blood of the child and understands the severity of pneumonia.
How Did My Child Get Pneumonia?
It is not pneumonia that is contagious, but the viruses and bacteria that are the culprit in causing the infection. So looking at this, we can say children get pneumonia by close contact with the infected person. Spending more time in closed public places like air-conditioned room increases the chances of the child getting infected with these viruses or bacteria, which can lead to pneumonia.
How To Treat Pneumonia In Kids?
Treatment At Home:
- Use a humidifier in your child’s room. This will make breathing easier for your child
- Ensure the child is getting enough rest
- Increase your child’s intake of fluids
- Every morning and evening, record your child’s temperature. Once the temperature goes above 100.40F for babies below six months or 102 0 F in case of older children, immediately call the doctor
- Make sure the child completes the course of antibiotic that is prescribed by the doctor.
- Paracetamol will help to relieve pain and fever. Make sure to follow the recommended dosage as overdosage of paracetamol is dangerous
Treatment At The Hospital:
- If your child is less than a year old and develops pneumonia, he will be immediately admitted to the hospital. Also, if the older child gets dehydrated, is not able to take medicines orally, and has difficulty breathing, he will need admission in the hospital.
- If the pneumonia is due to a bacterial infection, then intravenous antibiotic will be given as a part of the treatment
- If your child develops breathing difficulties, he will be administered oxygen to help him breathe easily
- In case of dehydration, your child will be given fluids intravenously
How Much Time Does It Take To Recover From Pneumonia?
With proper treatment and care, your child can recover from most kinds of bacterial pneumonia within a few weeks. Viral pneumonia, on the other hand, may take a little longer. But note that your child may continue coughing till the sputum present in the lungs is cleared. But there is nothing to worry about as this is also a part of the recovery process.
How To Prevent Pneumonia In Kids?
There a few steps that could be taken to prevent pneumonia in kids:
- Ensure the household is smoke-free. Never let anyone smoke near the baby or even inside the house
- Never let your child come in close contact with people suffering from any kind of upper respiratory tract infections like cold and cough
- If any member of the family has a throat infection or cold, never mix the child’s utensils with theirs
- Immunization for some causes of pneumonia-like whooping cough, flu, pneumococcal disease is also available and part of your child’s immunization schedule. Do get it on time to prevent your child from getting pneumonia
- Ensure that your child develops personal hygiene habits like washing hands
- Give a well-balanced diet to your child to ensure healthy weight gain. Being underweight and overweight can pave the way for infections like pneumonia
Some Home Remedies For Pneumonia In Kids
Here are a few home remedies that can help to ease the symptoms of pneumonia in kids:
- Rubbing garlic paste or garlic juice on your child’s chest will help to clear the phlegm accumulated in the chest and lungs
- Steam inhalation will also help to expel the phlegm and provide relief
- Heat loosens phlegm so you can keep a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel on your child’s chest to provide him relief
If there are more home remedies that can help in pneumonia, please do share in the comments section below.