Pneumonia is an infection of the lung. The infection is usually caused by viruses, but can also be caused by bacteria or other germs.
Pneumonia is usually caused by infection with viruses, bacteria or other germs. Common organisms that cause pneumonia include Respiratory Syncytical Virus, Influenza virus, Streptococcus pneumoniae and Mycoplasma sp. Most children who develop pneumonia are previously healthy with normal immune system. Pre-existing illnesses (e.g. chronic lung disease, weak immune system etc.) increase a child’s risk of contracting pneumonia.
Pneumonia is diagnosed by the doctor with thorough history taking and physical examination. Sometimes, there may be a need to perform a chest x-ray and/or blood tests.
Children with pneumonia often need supportive treatment to control the fever and maintain good hydration. Antibiotics are only prescribed for children who have bacterial pneumonia or viral pneumonia with suspected concurrent bacterial infection. With the start of a course of appropriate antibiotics for bacterial pneumonia, the fever usually starts improving within two to three days. The cough may take longer, up to two weeks, to resolve. However, in severe cases of pneumonia, your child will need to be admitted to the hospital for closer observation, antibiotics, oxygen therapy etc. Rarely, procedures such as chest tube insertion or surgery may be required in those with severe pneumonia who develop complications such as effusion (collection of fluid in the chest) or empyema (collection of pus in the chest).
Medications to suppress the cough (cough suppressants) or loosen the phlegm (mucolytics) are not routinely indicated for children with pneumonia. They may have little beneficial effect (if any) and may do more harm than good in young children (under 2 years).