Pneumonia is most often caused by bacteria or viruses. Some of these bacteria and viruses can be spread by direct contact with a person who is already infected with them.
Common bacteria and viruses that may cause pneumonia are:
Pneumonia may sometimes be caused by fungi.
A child is more likely to get pneumonia if he or she has:
In addition, children younger than 1 year are at risk if they are around secondhand tobacco smoke. This is especially true if their mother smokes.
Symptoms may be a bit different for each child. They may also depend on what is causing the pneumonia. Cases of bacterial pneumonia tend to happen suddenly with these symptoms:
Early symptoms of viral pneumonia are the same as those of bacterial pneumonia. But with viral pneumonia, the breathing problems happen slowly. Your child may wheeze and the cough may get worse. Viral pneumonia may make a child more at risk for bacterial pneumonia.
In addition to the symptoms listed above, your child may have:
The symptoms of pneumonia may look like other health problems. Make sure your child sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
Your child’s healthcare provider can usually diagnose pneumonia with a thorough health history and physical exam of your child. He or she may include these tests to confirm the diagnosis:
Treatment may include antibiotics for bacterial pneumonia. No good treatment is available for most viral pneumonias. They often get better on their own. Flu-related pneumonia may be treated with an antiviral medicine.
Other treatments can ease symptoms. They may include:
Some children may be treated in the hospital if they are having severe breathing problems. While in the hospital, treatment may include:
Pneumonia can be a life-threating illness. It may have these complications:
Pneumococcal pneumonia can be prevented with a vaccine that protects against 13 types of pneumococcal pneumonia. Doctors recommend that children get a series of shots beginning at 2 months of age. Talk with your child’s healthcare provider about this vaccine. Another vaccine is available for children older than 2 years who are at increased risk for pneumonia. Talk with your child's healthcare to see if it is recommended for your child. Also make sure your child is up-to-date on all vaccines, including the yearly flu shot. Pneumonia can develop after illnesses like whooping cough and the flu.
You can also help your child prevent pneumonia with good hygiene. Teach your child to cover his or her nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing. Your child should also wash his or her hands often. These measures can help prevent other infections, too.
Call your child’s healthcare provider if your child’s symptoms get worse. Or if he or she has:
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider: