Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs caused by pathogens such as bacteria or viruses. Pneumonia in children is common in less than 5 years old. Some lung infections can be mild or severe, but awareness of the warning signs is important. Early treatment is necessary to avoid life-threatening complications.
Some signs and symptoms of pneumonia are similar to other types of lung infections. Common signs include fever, chills, and discomfort. However, bacterial pneumonia presents with a cough with mucus, chest pain, appetite loss, fatigue, fever, vomiting, and diarrhea. Viral pneumonia presents with additional signs such as trouble or fast breathing, headache, and chills. Flaring of nostrils, wheezing, and bluish discoloration of the nails or lips are also important signs to not ignore.
When to call the doctor
Sometimes parents may not be aware that the child has a serious condition. Call the doctor immediately if pneumonia symptoms get worse. Additionally, keeping in mind important signs can help. Signs include fever prolonged for days, or child has difficulty breathing or drinking, or the appearance of new symptoms.
Making the diagnosis of pneumonia
When parents bring the child to the clinic, the doctor will take a medical history and examine the child’s lungs. To confirm the diagnosis, the healthcare provider will order some tests. Common medical tests such as blood tests and chest x-rays are initially requested. Pulse oximetry which checks a person’s oxygen level in the blood will also be evaluated. The doctor may perform additional tests include sputum culture, bronchoscopy, chest computed tomography (CT) scan, and pleural fluid culture.
Solving an infection
The treatment of pneumonia depends on the cause. Bacterial pneumonia is treated with antibiotics. Viral pneumonia has no specific treatment and resolves with time. However, helpful ways to lessen the symptoms include rest, drinking more fluids, cough syrups, and analgesics for fever. In severe cases where the child has trouble breathing, hospitalization is necessary and effective treatment is given.
Lessening the risk of getting pneumonia
Vaccinating against pneumococcal infections helps to prevent the risk of developing pneumonia. According to current guidelines, this vaccine should be given 4 times. The timelines are at 2, 4, 6 and 12-15 months of age. In addition to the vaccine, practicing good hygiene techniques can also help in reducing exposure to infection.
Pay attention to the signs
Pneumonia is a condition that can be treated and prevented. Signs such as unresolved fever, persistent cough, trouble breathing, wheezing, chest pain, lethargy, or bluish discoloration should not be ignored. Seek immediate medical help to treat the pneumonia and ask about vaccines if the child is not vaccinated.