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Pneumonia claims the life of a child every 20 seconds.
While 98 percent of pneumonia-induced deaths occur in developing countries, it’s still important to recognize how its symptoms show up in children.
Unlike adults, children who have pneumonia may not experience a nagging cough or fever and may have signs of infection that are much more subtle.
They also are a greater risk of contracting the disease because their immune system is not fully developed.
Overall, pneumonia symptoms vary according to age, but there are a number of clues that can help you recognize when your child has more than a bad cold.
Pneumonia is an inflammatory condition of the lung affecting primarily the microscopic air sacs known as alveoli. Kids with pneumonia caused by bacteria usually becomes sick fairly quickly and will have a sudden onset of a high fever and unusually rapid breathing. In most cases of pneumonia are caused by bacteria, most commonly bacteria called streptococcus pneumonia but viral pneumonia is more common in children.
Pneumonia is a bacterial or viral infection of the lungs. Symptoms can include fever, chills, shortness of breath, coughing that produces phlegm, and chest pain. Pneumonia can usually be treated successfully at home with antibiotics but hospitalisation may be required in some cases.
Symptoms of Pneumonia
The signs and symptoms of pneumonia vary from mild to severe, depending upon factors such as the type of germ causing the infection and your age and overall health. Mild signs and symptoms often are similar to those of a cold or flu, but they last longer.
Signs and symptoms of pneumonia include:
- High fever
- Shortness of breath
- Increased breathing rate
- A worsening cough that may produce discoloured or bloody sputum (phlegm)
- Sharp chest pains – caused by inflammation of the membrane that lines the lungs.
Newborns and infants may not show any sign of the infection. Or they may vomit, have a fever and cough, appear restless or tired and without energy, or have difficulty breathing and eating.
Treatment of Pneumonia
Most cases of pneumonia can be treated at home. However babies, children, and people with severe pneumonia may need to be admitted to hospital for treatment.
Pneumonia is usually treated with antibiotics, even if viral pneumonia is suspected as there may be a degree of bacterial infection as well. The type of antibiotic used and the way it is given will be determined by the severity and cause of the pneumonia.
If able to be treated at home, treatment usually includes:
- Antibiotics – given by mouth as tablets or liquid
- Pain relieving medications
- Paracetamol to reduce fever
If treatment in hospital is required, treatment usually includes:
- Antibiotics given intravenously (via a drip into a vein)
- Oxygen therapy – to ensure the body gets the oxygen it needs
- Intravenous fluids – to correct dehydration or if the person is too unwell to eat or drink
- Physiotherapy – to help clear the sputum from the lungs.
Pneumonia can affect anyone. But the two age groups at highest risk are:
- Infants and children younger than age 2 years, because their immune systems are still developing
- People older than age 65
Other risk factors include:
- Certain chronic diseases, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and heart disease
- Weakened or suppressed immune system, due to factors such as HIV/AIDS, organ transplant, chemotherapy for cancer or long-term steroid use
- Smoking, which damages your body’s natural defenses against the bacteria and viruses that cause pneumonia
- Being placed on a ventilator while hospitalized