Pediatric Pneumonia

Pediatric Pneumonia

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Summary

Pneumonia occurs when the lungs swell and fill with fluid due to an infection.

Expanded overview

Pediatric pneumonia is a general term for any lung infection. It typically begins when an infection affecting the upper respiratory system (nose, throat and airways) moves into the lungs, causing them to swell with fluid. Pneumonia can impact one or both lungs, and be located at the top or bottom of a child’s lung.

If left untreated, it can be extremely dangerous and lead to serious complications like respiratory failure (organs will not receive oxygen), sepsis or the infection can spread to other areas.

Infants (birth to 1 year*) and toddlers (1 to 3 years**) are at a higher risk of developing pneumonia, as they are still building their immune systems.

Types

There are four types of pneumonia:

  • Bacterial pneumonia — i.e., Streptococcus pneumonia or bacterial bronchitis
  • Fungal pneumonia — i.e., Pulmonary aspergilloma, invasive aspergillosis or allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis
  • Parasitic pneumonia – i.e., ascariasis (a round worm), schistosoma (flatworms also known as blood flukes) and toxoplasma gondii (toxoplasmosis, typically associated with cats)
  • Viral pneumonia — i.e., the flu or respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)

Causes

Pediatric pneumonia can be caused by a bacteria, virus, fungus or parasites (in rare occasions). Bacteria and viruses are the main causes of pneumonia infections.

Symptoms

Children will experience pneumonia symptoms differently than adults — they may not have symptoms or they can be subtle. Signs will also vary with age and cause of the pneumonia.

Symptoms in infants (birth to 1 year*)

  • Cough with phlegm (thick mucus) or blood
  • Crying more than usual
  • Cyanosis (bluish or gray color lips and fingernails)
  • Decreased activity
  • Dehydration
  • Difficulty breathing (belly breaths, flaring nostrils, gasping, rapid breaths, short breaths, visible sucking in of skin by the ribs)
  • Irritable
  • Lethargic (extremely and unusually tired)
  • Pale coloring
  • Poor feeding or refusal to eat
  • Sleeping troubles or sleeping more than normal
  • Vomiting or spitting up

Symptoms in children 1 year and older

  • Chest pain, especially when coughing
  • Chills or sweating
  • Cough with phlegm (thick mucus) or blood
  • Crying more than usual
  • Cyanosis (bluish or gray color lips and fingernails)
  • Decreased activity
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue (tired)
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Stuffy nose
  • Vomiting
  • Wheezing

*Age of infants as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO).
**Age of toddlers as defined by the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

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