Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs. It can be caused by a virus or bacteria, but, in many cases, the exact cause is never found. Sometimes pneumonia seems like a bad chest cold, but in other cases, it can cause very serious breathing problems. Pneumonia is often preceded by a cold or flu, so, preventing these illnesses can help prevent pneumonia.
What causes pneumonia?
Pneumonia can be caused by a virus or bacteria. In about half of cases, no cause is ever found. Many cases of pneumonia start with a cold or flu which then can lead to the infection of the lungs. Kids under the age of four are most likely to get pneumonia.
Is pneumonia serious?
Young, healthy kids usually recover from pneumonia in a week to ten days, but serious complications such as trouble breathing, pleurisy (inflammation of the membrane around the lungs), and lung abscesses can occur in severe pneumonia. In very severe illnesses, the bacteria that cause pneumonia can spread to other parts of the body.
Can I prevent pneumonia?
There is a vaccine available for pneumococcal pneumonia, the most common form of pneumonia, caused by the bacteria Streptococcus pneumoniae. Other forms of pneumonia can be prevented by preventing the illnesses that often precede them, like colds and flu. Wash your hands, eat right, and get plenty of rest to prevent getting sick in the first place.
How do I know if my child has pneumonia?
Kids with pneumonia often have a fever, chest pain, coughing, headache and trouble breathing. They may breathe rapidly and appear blue around the nose and mouth, a condition called cyanosis.
How do I treat pneumonia?
Treatment for pneumonia depends on what causes it. Bacterial pneumonia will probably have to be treated with antibiotics. Viral pneumonia may be treated with antiviral medications, plenty of rest and fluids. If your child has trouble breathing, they may need to be hospitalised so that they can receive oxygen to help him breathe easier. Use paracetamol for fever and headaches.
Should I call the doctor?
Pneumonia can be very serious, so always call the doctor if you suspect that your child has it. If your child is being treated for pneumonia and they doesn’t appear to be getting better, you might need to try a different course of treatment. Call your doctor for advice.
What you need to know about pneumonia
- Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs caused by a virus or bacteria.
- Pneumonia can make it hard to breathe and it can be serious.
- The treatment for pneumonia depends on what caused it.
- Pneumonia is most common in older people and kids under four.
- A vaccine is available for pneumococcal pneumonia.
Find more relevant articles and information about pneumonia
- Learn more about bacterial and viral infections
- Learn more about the common cold
- Learn more about lung and respiratory infections
- Read more about bronchitis
This article was written for Kidspot New Zealand.
Last revised: Sunday, 17 January 2010
This article contains general information only and is not intended to replace advice from a qualified health professional.