Pneumonia is a term used to define any infection of the lungs. Now, pneumonia can be caused by a virus which is one of the more common causes in children and a bacteria. There are some non-infective causes where pneumonia can result. It can be because of aspiration of vomit, foreign body, water from a pool during drowning or inhalation of irritant chemicals.
In terms of symptoms, most bacterial and viral infections begin with an initial phase of runny nose, slight cough and fever. Now, as the infection traverses down the airway and reaches the lungs, it can cause some or all of the symptoms depending upon the extent of infection. There can be fever, which is typically high which we can see in bacterial infection. Cough which is productive, where the child is coughing like a lot of yellowish-green mucus, the child could be breathing fast and in the more severe cases, there can be an added effort to breathing, with retractions between the ribs or under the ribcage. There can be chest pain. If the lining of the lungs are involved, wherein the child will find it painful to take deep breaths and may be seen splinting to one side. Abdominal pain may be present, especially if the pneumonia is affecting a lower lobe of the lung. There can be loss of appetite and very ill children can be lethargic from the labored breathing and may have a bluish tinge to the nails and lips from low oxygen levels.
Pneumonia can be diagnosed clinically by your doctor when a sound called as crackles or decreased breath sounds are heard over certain areas of the chest upon auscultation using a stethoscope. Your doctor may ask for an additional test to confirm the diagnosis such as a chest X-Ray, a blood test, a sputum for culture test, a pulse oximetry to assess the oxygen saturation level in the blood.
In terms of treatment, the viral pneumonia gets better on its own with just supportive treatment, which is rest, plenty of fluids and close medical monitoring. Now, severe cases may require treatment with an antiviral. Bacterial pneumonia will require an oral antibiotic prescribed to the child by the doctor if the child is clinically stable. Now, hospitalization, intravenous antibiotics, intravenous fluids and oxygen via a facial mask may be required when the child is less than a year old or the child has a pre-existing lung condition, the child is not responding to oral antibiotics for more than 48 hours, the child is refusing food and drinks and appear dehydrated or the child is having labored breathing. Now, paracetamol is usually prescribed for the fever and the child is encouraged to cough and bring out the sputum. Now, in the case of aspiration of foreign body being the cause, it will require a consultation with a pediatric pulmonologist, who upon examination, will do the necessary means to treat it and remove the foreign body.
Now, what can we do in terms of prevention? The pneumococcal vaccine which is now available, helps to fight one of the most common causes, rather, bacterial causes of pneumonia. Keep your child up to date with his or her vaccine shots as some of them help to prevent the other causes of pneumonia such as, HIB or Haemophilus Infuenza B vaccine, the measles vaccine, the chickenpox or varicella vaccine and the flu vaccine. Keep your kids healthy by ensuring they drink adequate fluids and eat healthy foods. Inculcate the habit of washing hands thoroughly and regularly in your kids and keep your kids away from secondary cigarette smoke.
Team Ovum Hospitals