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Pneumonia is a serious infection in the lungs that causes the alveoli (small air sacs in the lungs) to be blocked by fluid and pus. If your child has pneumonia, he or she will have difficulty breathing and may not get enough oxygen into the blood.
In children preschool age or younger, viruses are the most common cause of pneumonia. Common viral causes include respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), human metapneumovirus and influenza. Bacteria (like Streptococcus pneumoniae or Staphylococcus aureus) or atypical organisms (like Mycoplasma pneumoniae) may also cause the infection, especially in older children.
These viral infections usually are not as serious in most adults. However, they can cause pneumonia in children because children do not have fully formed immune systems and have smaller airways. Children with immunodeficiencies, asthma, chronic lung diseases, neuromuscular conditions or other chronic diseases may be more likely to get pneumonia. Children who have not received vaccinations or who are exposed to secondhand smoke also have an increased risk for pneumonia.
Pneumonia symptoms typically begin like a common cold and include a runny nose and coughing. Symptoms may then get worse and include a high fever, fast breathing or difficulty breathing. Other symptoms may include fussiness, loss of appetite, chest or abdominal pain and vomiting.
Riley at IU Health doctors can use simple tests to determine if your child has pneumonia. These include:
Your child's doctor will work with you to determine the best way to treat the pneumonia. Many children can be treated for pneumonia at home with oral antibiotics (if the pneumonia is caused by bacteria) and medicines to control symptoms, such as fever reducers. If pneumonia was caused by influenza, antiviral medicines may also help speed up recovery. Your child should rest and drink fluids to prevent dehydration.
Some children with pneumonia may need to be hospitalized to receive supportive care while their bodies fight off the condition. Children who are not getting enough oxygen in their blood will receive supplementary oxygen through an oxygen mask or nose cannula. Children who are not able to eat or drink will receive intravenous (through the vein) fluids so they do not become dehydrated. Children in the hospital may also receive an antibiotic or antiviral medicine through an IV depending on their diagnosis.
Visit the websites below to learn more about pneumonia.
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