Preventing pneumonia in children

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) - With cold and flu season here, it's normal to see children coughing and sneezing, but lingering symptoms could turn into a more serious illness, requiring a hospital stay. 

Pneumonia is the leading cause of hospitalization among children in the United States. Children ages 5 and younger are at greatest risk. 

Dr. Shannon Cohen, an ER physician at Children's Hospital, has more information about the illness.

Pneumonia is a lung infection caused by a variety of germs like viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites. Most are caused by viruses like the common cold and spread the same way. If symptoms linger too long, they can move into the lungs, where pneumonia develops.

Signs and symptoms of pneumonia include:

  • Cough
  • Fast, labored breathing (sometimes this is the only sign)
  • Increased activity of breathing muscles below and  between the ribs and above the collarbone
  • Flaring of the nostrils
  • Pain in the chest, particularly with coughing or deep breathing 
  • Wheezing
  • Bluish tint to lips or nails, caused by decreased oxygen in the bloodstream

Walking pneumonia refers to a milder case fo the illness which doesn't require hospitalization. You might also hear people talk about double pneumonia, which is an infection of both lungs.

Dr. Cohen says If your child is struggling to breathe, bring them to ER immediately where medical treatment can be administered quickly and safely. A pediatrician will listen to lungs for fluid and may order a chest x-ray. If it’s bacterial, antibiotics will be prescribed. Antibiotics won’t work on viruses, in this case, fever-reducing medicines may be used along with cool-mist humidifier at home.

No matter the type of pneumonia, getting rest and plenty of fluids is important.

To prevent pneumonia, Dr. Cohen recommends children get all their vaccinations, washing hands thoroughly and often, and reducing spread by covering coughs and sneezes. And don't forget to keep children home when they're sick.



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