Pneumonia in children - community acquired

Definition

Pneumonia is a lung infection caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi.

This article covers community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) in children. This type of pneumonia occurs in healthy children who have not recently been in the hospital or another health care facility.

Pneumonia that affects people in health care facilities, such as hospitals, is often caused by germs that are harder to treat.

Causes

Viruses are the most common cause of pneumonia in infants and children.

Ways your child can get CAP include:

Risk factors that increase a child's chance of getting CAP include:

Symptoms

Common symptoms of pneumonia in children include:

Symptoms common in children with more severe infections include:

Exams and Tests

The health care provider will listen to your child's chest with a stethoscope. The provider will listen for crackles or abnormal breath sounds. Tapping on the chest wall (percussion) helps the provider listen and feel for abnormal sounds.

If pneumonia is suspected, the provider will likely order a chest x-ray.

Other tests may include:

Treatment

The provider must first decide whether your child needs to be in the hospital.

If treated in the hospital, your child will receive:

Your child is more likely to be admitted to the hospital if he:

If your child has CAP caused by bacteria, antibiotics will be given. Antibiotics are not given for pneumonia caused by a virus. This is because antibiotics do not kill viruses. Other medicines, such as antivirals, may be given if your child has the flu.

Many children can be treated at home. If so, your child may need to take medicines such as antibiotics or antivirals.

When giving antibiotics to your child:

Do not give your child cough medicine or cold medicine unless your doctor says it is OK. Coughing helps the body get rid of mucus from the lungs.

Other home care measures include:

Outlook (Prognosis)

Most children improve in 7 to 10 days with treatment. Children who have severe pneumonia with complications may need treatment for 2 to 3 weeks. Children at risk for severe pneumonia include:

Possible Complications

In some cases, more serious problems may develop, including:

The provider may order another x-ray. This is to make sure that your child's lungs are clear. It may take many weeks for the x-ray to clear up. Your child may feel better for a while before the x-rays are clear.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call the provider if your child has the following symptoms:

Prevention

Teach older children to wash their hands often:

Vaccines may help prevent some types of pneumonia. Be sure to get your child vaccinated with:

When infants are too young to be immunized, parents or caregivers can get themselves immunized against vaccine-preventable pneumonia.


Review Date: 9/22/2018
Reviewed By: Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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