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Pneumonia is an inflammation of the lungs caused by bacteria, viruses, or chemical irritants. It is a serious infection or inflammation in which the air sacs fill with pus and other liquid.

  • Lobar pneumonia - affects one or more sections (lobes) of the lungs.
  • Bronchial pneumonia (or bronchopneumonia) - affects patches throughout both lungs.

Pneumonia Symptoms

After having symptoms of a mild upper respiratory tract infection, such as a runny nose and mild cough, children who develop pneumonia may have a sudden worsening and develop other symptoms, including:

  • worsening cough
  • fever
  • increased respiratory rate (tachypnea)
  • retractions (labored breathing)
  • wheezing (usually a sign of viral pneumonia)
  • cyanosis
  • decreased breath sounds
  • crackles
  • chest pain
  • abdominal pain
  • vomiting
  • nasal flaring

Diagnosis of Pneumonia

Most cases of pneumonia are diagnosed clinically, meaning that your Pediatrician makes the diagnosis after examining your child based on your child's symptoms and after a physical exam.

When necessary, a chest xray and blood culture are also done. Other testing might including a complete blood count (CBC) and C-reactive protein (CRP). A pulse ox test to check your child's oxygen level is also sometimes done if your Pediatrician thinks that he has pneumonia, especially if he is having a lot of trouble breathing.

Diagnosis is usually made based on the season and the extent of the illness. Based on these factors, your physician may diagnose simply on a thorough history and physical examination, but may include the following tests to confirm the diagnosis:
  • chest x ray - a diagnostic test which uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film.
  • blood tests - blood count for evidence of infection; arterial blood gas to analyze the amount of carbon dioxide and oxygen in the blood.
  • sputum culture - a diagnostic test performed on the material that is coughed up from the lungs and into the mouth. A sputum culture is often performed to determine if an infection is present.
  • pulse oximetry - an oximeter is a small machine that measures the amount of oxygen in the blood. To obtain this measurement, a small sensor (like a Band-Aid) is taped onto a finger or toe. When the machine is on, a small red light can be seen in the sensor. The sensor is painless and the red light does not get hot.

Pneumonia Treatments

Antibiotics are the usual treatment when a child is suspected of having bacterial pneumonia. Treatments for other types of pneumonia will depend on the cause, although there is usually no specific treatment for most viral causes of pneumonia.

Specific treatment for pneumonia will be determined by your child's physician based on:
  • your child's age, overall health, and medical history
  • extent of the condition
  • cause of the condition
  • your child's tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • expectations for the course of the condition
  • your opinion or preference

Treatment may include antibiotics for bacterial pneumonia. Antibiotics may also speed recovery from mycoplasma pneumonia and some special cases. There is no clearly effective treatment for viral pneumonia, which usually resolves on its own.

Other treatment may include:
  • appropriate diet
  • increased fluid intake
  • cool mist humidifier in the child's room
  • acetaminophen (for fever and discomfort)
  • medication for cough

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