Doc Talk: Dangers of Pneumonia in children and how to treat it

In our new weekly segment, 'Doc Talk', pediatric emergency doctor, Clint Pollack from Valley Children's Hospital is talking about Pneumonia in children and how parents should properly treat it once it occurs.

Pneumonia is an infection of the lower respiratory tract (lungs), causing inflammation of the lungs, buildup of mucus/debris, and impairment of ventilation.

Symptoms may include: cough, fever, increased work of breathing, shortness of breath, fatigue, difficulty feeding, or chest/abdominal pain.

Usually follows an Upper Respiratory Infection, with germs invading the lower respiratory tract.

Can be caused by viruses or bacteria.

Most common bacterial cause is Streptococcus pneumoniae, but can also be caused by Staph bacteria, Mycoplasma pneumoniae, Chlamydia pneumoniae, and others.

Viruses are more common in children less than 5 years-old.

Most common viral causes are RSV, influenza, metapneumovirus, parainfluenza, coronavirus, enterovirus, adenovirus, and rhinovirus.

More common during cold and flu season, but can occur anytime.

Children with certain chronic medical problems are at higher risk for developing pneumonia:

-Congenital heart disease
-Cystic fibrosis
-Sickle cell disease
-Neuromuscular disorders, especially those associated with a depressed consciousness
-Some gastrointestinal disorders (gastroesophageal reflux, tracheoesophageal fistula)

-Congenital and acquired immunodeficiency disorders
-Exposure to cigarette smoke

Immunization with the Haemophilus influenzae (Hib) and pneumococcal vaccines protects children from illness caused by these organisms.

Complications can include pleural effusion (fluid around the lungs), pleural empyema (pus around the lungs), necrotizing pneumonia (destruction of lung tissue), pneumothorax (a hole in the lung causing air outside the lung), and hyponatremia (low blood sodium).

Patients with severe worsening symptoms should see a doctor urgently.

Most patients can be treated at home with antibiotics.

Very ill patients may need to be admitted to the hospital if they have low oxygen, severe difficulty breathing, dehydration, other chronic medical problems, or are not getting better with outpatient antibiotics.
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