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What parents should know about pneumonia

Posted on Nov. 12, 2014 ( comments)
doc for pneumonia

According to the World Health Organization, pneumonia is the leading infectious disease killer of children under age five worldwide. In 2013, an estimated 935,000 children in this age range died from pneumonia.

The statistics are scary for many parents. However, immunizations are available that can prevent pneumonia from occurring.

World Pneumonia Day is the perfect time to remind people about routine vaccines for children —  influenza (flu), pertussis (whooping cough) and pneumococcal shots.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends pneumococcal  vaccine for all children younger than five years. It also recommends the vaccine for all adults 65 years or older and people six years or older with certain risk factors. 

What is pneumonia?

Pneumonia is a general term used to describe a lung infection caused by virus, bacteria or fungi. Often, pneumonia begins after an upper respiratory tract infection, with symptoms beginning two or three days after the start of a cold or sore throat.

What to look for

Signs and symptoms vary depending on the age of the child and the cause of the pneumonia. Common ones include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • cough
  • Nasal congestion
  • Unusually rapid breathing (in some cases, this is the only symptom)
  • Breathing with grunting or wheezing sounds
  • Labored breathing that makes the rib muscles retract (when muscles under the ribcage or between ribs draw inward with each breath) and causes nasal flaring
  • Vomiting
  • Chest pain
  • Abdominal pain
  • Decreased activity
  • Loss of appetite (in older children) or poor feeding (in infants), which may lead to dehydration
  • In extreme cases, bluish or gray color of the lips and fingernails.

When to call the doctor

Call your doctor immediately if your child has any of the signs and symptoms of pneumonia, but especially if he or she:

  • Is having trouble breathing or is breathing abnormally fast
  • Has a bluish or gray color to the fingernails or lips
  • Has a fever of 102°F (38.9°C), or above 100.4°F (38°C) in infants under six months old.

In most cases, pneumonia can be treated with oral antibiotics at home. The type of antibiotic used depends on the type of pneumonia. In some cases, other members of the household might be treated with medication to prevent illness.

More information

Learn about free immunizations available through MultiCare Mary Bridge Mobile Immunization Clinic.

Pneumonia background is available in the Mary Bridge Kids’ Health Library.

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