Childhood Pneumonia

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An infection in the lungs, pneumonia most commonly occurs in children under age 5. While some cases of pneumonia are mild, swelling and fluid may build up and become dangerous to your child’s ability to breathe.

Viruses, bacteria or other germs most often cause pneumonia. Other respiratory problems, a weakened immune system, smoke exposure and certain defects and disorders can increase your child’s risk of developing the disease.

Vaccines and good hygiene can help prevent your child from developing this infection.

Symptoms of Childhood Pneumonia

Pneumonia may cause respiratory symptoms such as:

  • Cough, with or without mucus
  • Wheezing
  • Fast or hard breathing

It can also cause:

  • Fever and chills
  • Chest pain
  • Lack of energy
  • Irritability
  • Low appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Abdominal pain
  • Bluish gray color around the nose, lips or fingernails

To diagnose your child’s infection, your pediatrician may conduct these tests:

  • Pulse oximetry, a finger clip that measures how much oxygen is getting to the blood
  • Blood, urine and mucus tests to identify the germs
  • Chest X-rays or ultrasound to examine your child’s lungs


Whether your child contracts mild or severe pneumonia, UVA can provide child-centered services to help reduce symptoms and keep your child safe.

Antibiotics can treat pneumonia caused by a bacterial infection. Antiviral medications can help manage pneumonia caused by some viruses. Your pediatrician may also suggest that you give your child:

  • Plenty of rest
  • More fluids
  • A cool mist humidifier
  • Acetaminophen for fever and discomfort
  • Medicine for cough

High-Risk or Severe Infections

With severe pneumonia, your child may need to be hospitalized so we can:

  • Provide oxygen therapy to increase levels of oxygen in the blood
  • Give nutrition and fluids through IV if your child can’t eat or keep food down
  • Deliver medicine through an IV
  • Monitor the infection