Dr Shan Narayanan
WHAT IS PNEUMONIA?
Pneumonia is infection of one or both lungs. It is a significant cause of morbidity in children.
WHAT CAUSES PNEUMONIA?
Pneumonia is caused by viruses, bacteria, fungi or parasites. The commonest causal agent is virus namely, adenovirus, respiratory syncytial virus, influenza virus and rhinovirus. Children with viral pneumonia can also develop bacterial pneumonia.
WHAT MAY INCREASE THE RISK FOR PNEUMONIA?
Healthy children can develop pneumonia, however children with the following risk factors are more prone to infection: premature birth; breathing second-hand smoke; asthma; heart defects; poor nutrition; weak immune system; and spending long hours in crowded places.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF PNEUMONIA?
Pneumonia begins after an infection of the upper respiratory tract (nose and throat). This causes fluid to collect in the lungs, making it hard to breathe.
The signs and symptoms depend on what caused the pneumonia and the age of the child. The signs and symptoms of bacterial pneumonia usually begin more quickly than they do with viral pneumonia. Your child may have any of the following: fever; shortness of breath or trouble breathing; abdominal pain near your child’s ribs; poor appetite; cough; crying more than usual, or more irritable or fussy than normal; and pale or bluish lips, fingernails, or toenails.
HOW DO I KNOW IF MY CHILD IS HAVING TROUBLE BREATHING?
Your child’s nostrils open wider when he breathes in.
Your child’s skin between his ribs and around his neck pulls in with each breath.
Your child is breathing fast.
HOW IS PNEUMONIA DIAGNOSED?
Your doctor will ask you relevant question then examine your child. She will auscultate your child to hear for the breathing sounds. In Pneumonia, the breathing sound can be reduced or increased. There may also be crackles.
Your doctor will also request for a chest x-ray to confirm the diagnosis.
HOW IS PNEUMONIA TREATED?
Mild pneumonia can be treated as out patient with fever medication and antibiotics if needed. Children having trouble breathing, dehydration, high fever are admitted to hospital for treatment.
While in hospital your child will be watched closely and the following treatments may be necessary:
Antibiotics might be given directly into a vein (intravenous). Intravenous antibiotics will be given if the pneumonia is thought to be bacterial.
Some children may need oxygen to help them to breathe more easily.
Children who are dehydrated will need to be given fluids by a drip.
Children with severe breathing difficulty will need breathing support.
HOW CAN I HELP PREVENT THE SPREAD OF PNEUMONIA?
Keep your child up to date with their immunisations.
Teach children not to share eating or drinking utensils, toys and food or drinks with other children.
Teach children to wash their hands after coughing or sneezing to prevent the spread of germs.
WHEN SHOULD MY CHILD RETURN TO SCHOOL OR DAYCARE?
Your child can return to nursery, kindergarten or school when the fever and cough has settled and she is her usual active self.