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Pneumonia In Babies: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis And Treatment

World Pneumonia Day is observed on 12 November every year. The World Pneumonia Day aims to raise awareness of pneumonia as a public health issue and help prevent the millions of avoidable child deaths from pneumonia that occur each year. Organised by the Global Coalition against Child Pneumonia, the day seeks to bring attention among donors, policymakers, health care professionals and the general public.

The first World Pneumonia Day was observed on 2 November 2009 and since then, the day has been shifted to 12 November.

Regarded as the world's leading cause of death among children, pneumonia kills one child every 39 seconds - yet, pneumonia remains a neglected disease. The pneumonia-causing virus enters our body through our lungs and settles in the air sacs. Our body tries to fight off this by inflammation and fills our lungs with fluid and pus [1] .

Ranked as the eighth leading cause of death in the world, there is a growing need to educate people about this disease and prevention methods. Though there are vaccines available for the prevention of this disease, once contracted it can be difficult to combat. Doctors usually prescribe certain antibiotics to reduce pain and swelling. Many resorts to ayurvedic remedies to manage the disease[2] .

In this article, we will take a look at the way the condition affects young children.

Causes Of Pneumonia In Babies

Caused by a variety of germs such as viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites - pneumonia is mostly caused by viruses such as adenoviruses, rhinovirus, influenza virus (flu), respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and parainfluenza virus [3].

The causes of childhood pneumonia can vary by age. That is, pneumonia due to respiratory viruses, Streptococcus pneumoniae, and Haemophilus influenza is more common in children under 5 years old. Pneumonia due to Mycoplasma pneumoniae is frequently observed in children between the ages of 5 and 13 [3] .

Babies who develop pneumonia caused by bacteria usually become sick quickly and the ones who get it by viruses will have symptoms that appear more gradually and are less severe[4] . Likewise, pneumonia can also be caused by chlamydia, in children.

Symptoms Of Pneumonia In Babies

In babies and children, symptoms may be less specific and they may not show clear signs of a chest infection.

Some common symptoms of the infection in babies are as follows [5] :

  • Fever
  • Lack of energy
  • Lethargy
  • Noisy or rattly breathing
  • Have difficulty with feeding
  • Grunting sound with breathing

When To See A Doctor

If your child shows any of the following signs, take them to the doctor immediately [6] .

  • Lacks energy for an extended period
  • Has trouble breathing
  • Suffers any significant changes in behaviour or appetite

Diagnosis Of Pneumonia In Babies

To examine the condition, the doctors will make a pneumonia diagnosis after a physical examination [6] . The doctor will check the child's appearance, vital signs and breathing patterns. They will also check for abnormal sounds from the lungs.

In some cases, a chest X-ray or blood tests will be required.

Treatment For Pneumonia In Babies

Most cases of pneumonia can be treated at home. However, babies may need to be admitted to hospital for treatment.

Hospital treatment can include intravenous (IV) antibiotics (given through a needle into a vein) and respiratory therapy (breathing treatments). More severe cases might be treated in the intensive care unit (ICU) [7] .

Prevention Of Pneumonia In Babies

The following steps can be taken to reduce the risk of contracting the infection in babies[8] [9] .

  • Breastfeeding your baby to help boost their immune system.
  • Keeping your home warm and well-ventilated
  • Avoiding contact with people who have colds, the flu, or other infections
  • Vaccination

On A Final Note...

Your baby needs to get plenty of rest while the body works to fight the infection. If your child has bacterial pneumonia and the doctor has prescribed antibiotics, give the medicine on schedule for as long as directed - which will help your baby recover faster and help prevent the infection from spreading. Take your baby's temperature at least once each morning and each evening, and call the doctor if it goes above 38°C [10] .

View Article References
  1. [1] Gajewska, M., Lewtak, K., Scheres, J., Albrecht, P., & Gorynski, P. (2016). Trends in hospitalization of children with bacterial pneumonia in Poland. Central European journal of public health, 24(3), 188.
  2. [2] Yousaf, E., Yousuf, M. S., Soroiu, C., & Tariq, M. (2019). P552 British thoracic society (BTS) pneumonia audit: completing the loop.
  3. [3] Phuong, N. T., Hoang, T. T., Foster, K., Roberts, C. L., & Marais, B. J. (2017). Exploring pneumonia risk factors in Vietnamese infants: a survey of new mothers. BMJ paediatrics open, 1(1).
  4. [4] Chi, M., Han, T., Chen, C., Hua, S., Mei, Y., Li, Q., & Feng, Z. (2018). Clinical characteristics and prognosis of collodion babies. INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF CLINICAL AND EXPERIMENTAL MEDICINE, 11(10), 10949-10957.
  5. [5] Tamburini, S., & Clemente, J. C. (2017). Gut microbiota: neonatal gut microbiota induces lung immunity against pneumonia. Nature Reviews Gastroenterology & Hepatology, 14(5), 263.
  7. [7] Rosati, S. F., Maarouf, R., Oiticica, C., Lange, P., Haynes, J., & Lanning, D. (2015). A treatment program for babies with esophageal atresia in Belize. Journal of Surgical Research, 199(1), 72-76.
  8. [8] Lamichhane, A., & Mishra, A. (2019). Prevalence of Ventilator Associated Pneumonia in Neonates in A Tertiary Care Hospital in Western Nepal. Journal of Nepal Medical Association, 57(216).
  9. [9] Webber, S., Wilkinson, A. R., Lindsell, D., Hope, P. L., Dobson, S. R., & Isaacs, D. (1990). Neonatal pneumonia. Archives of disease in childhood, 65(2), 207-211.
  10. [10] Misra, S. U. D. I. P. T. A., Bhakoo, O. N., Ayyagiri, A., & Katariya, S. (1991). Clinical & bacteriological profile of neonatal pneumonia. The Indian journal of medical research, 93, 366-370.
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