Pneumonia is a common infection of the lungs that may be caused by a virus or a bacterium.
It is lethal especially among children. All over the world 4.5 million children die of pneumonia each year. In the Philippines, pneumonia is the third- leading cause of sickness.
Pneumonia often begins after an upper-respiratory tract infection ( an infection of the nose and throat). Symptoms of pneumonia appear after three or more days of fever accompanied by cold, cough, and sore throat.
Signs and Symptoms
Sign and symptoms may vary depending on the age of your child and the cause of pneumonia:
- Rapid breathing
- Labored breathing that makes a child’s muscles under the rib cage or between ribs to draw inward with each breath
- Chest pain
- Abdominal pain
- Decreased activity
- Loss of appetite(in order children) or poor feeding ( in infants)
- Bluish or gray color of the lip and fingernails, in extreme cases.
When the cause is bacterial infection, the child usually becomes sick very quickly. There is a sudden onset of high fever and unusual rapid breathing. When pneumonia is caused by a virus, symptoms appear gradually and are often less severe.
Treatment and Prevention
If any of the signs and symptoms appear in the child, bring him to your doctor immediately, especially when he has difficulty breathing or is breathing fast. A fever above 38 degrees Celsius in infants younger than six months and bluish or gray color of his fingernails or lips should merit seeing your child’s doctor right away.
Medication is given in most cases of pneumonia, but it depends on whether it is caused by a virus or a bacterium.
In some cases, the child may have to be hospitalized, especially if the child cannot eat.
Pneumonia can spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes, when droplets are caught by another person through sharing of drinking glasses and utensils, or when a person touches the infected person’s belongings such as towels or handkerchiefs.
There are vaccines against the viruses and bacteria that cause pneumonia. Children get routine immunizations against whooping cough beginning at two years old. Vaccines against the pneumococcus organism , a common cause of bacterial pneumonia, are also available.
It is best to keep your child away from anyone who has an upper- respiratory tract infection. Always keep eating utensils of those who have s respiratory or throat infection separate from those of family members. Washing your hands frequently should also help in preventing the spread of diseases.
When your child has been prescribed antibiotics for bacterial pneumonia, stick to the schedule given by the doctor. This will help your child recover faster and prevent the disease from spreading to other family members.
What to do if your child has pneumonia
- Do not force your child to eat if he is not feeling well.
- Encourage your child to drink plenty of fluids. If your child is experiencing chest pain, try putting a warm compress over the chest area.
- Take his temperature twice a day in the morning and in the evening.
- See doctor if the temperature is above 38.9 degrees Celsius in older infants, less than 38 degrees Celsius in an infant less than six months old.
- Check your child’s lips and fingernails to make sure that they are not bluish or gray, a sign that his lungs are not getting enough oxygen.