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What To Do If You Think Your Baby Has Pneumonia


What is pneumonia in babies?

Pneumonia is an infection in one or both lungs. Sometimes, pneumonia begins after an infection of the upper respiratory tract (throat and nose). This causes fluid to collect in the lungs, making it hard for the baby to breathe and can be fatal if left untreated.

What causes pneumonia in babies?

Pneumonia can be caused by different types of germs, including bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites. Viruses are usually the cause of pneumonia in babies. Children with viral pneumonia can also develop bacterial pneumonia. Pneumonia can also occur if foreign material, such as food or stomach acid, is inhaled into the lungs.

What may increase the risk for pneumonia in babies?

•Premature birth
•Breathing in secondhand smoke
•Asthma or certain genetic disorders, such as sickle-cell anemia
•Heart defects, such as ventricular septal defect (VSD), atrial septal defect (ASD), or patent ductus arteriosus (PDA)
•Poor nutrition
•A weak immune system
•Spending time in a crowded place, such as a daycare center

What are the signs and symptoms of pneumonia in babies?

The signs and symptoms depend on what caused the pneumonia. The signs and symptoms of pneumonia caused by bacteria usually begin more quickly than a viral infection. Your baby may have one or more of the following:

•Cough, usually with yellow or green mucus
•Crying more than usual, or more irritable or fussy than normal
•Poor appetite
•Loose bowel movements
•Pale or bluish lips, fingernails, or toenails
•Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

How do I know if my child is having trouble breathing?

•Your baby’s nostrils open wider when he breathes in.
•Your baby’s skin between his ribs and around his neck pulls in with each breath.
•Your baby is wheezing, which means you hear a high-pitched noise when he breathes out.
•Your baby is breathing fast:
◦More than 60 breaths in one minute for newborn babies up to 2 months old
◦More than 50 breaths in one minute for a baby 2 months to 12 months old
◦More than 40 breaths in one minute for a child older than 1 year

How is pneumonia in babies diagnosed?

•Blood tests: You may need blood taken to give caregivers information about how your body is working. The blood may be taken from your hand, arm, or IV.
•Chest x-ray: This is a picture of your baby’s lungs and heart. Caregivers may use this to look for signs of infection (such as pneumonia) or other problems.
•Sputum culture: These tests are used to look for germs in your baby’s spit or in the mucus your baby coughs up.

How is pneumonia in babies treated?

•Medications – Your baby will usually need to take antibiotics if he/she has bacterial pneumonia. Viral pneumonia will usually go away without antibiotics.
•Hospitalization – If the pneumonia is severe, a doctor may want your baby to stay in the hospital for treatment. Trouble breathing, dehydration, high fever, and the need for oxygen or medicines are reasons to stay in the hospital.

How can pneumonia in babies be prevented?

•Your baby may be able to take preventative antibiotics if he/she has been exposed to pneumonia or if he has weak immune system. Ask your baby’s healthcare provider for information.
•Do not let anyone smoke around your baby. Smoke can make your baby’s coughing or breathing worse.
•Get your baby vaccinated against viruses or bacteria that cause infections such as pneumonia.
•Keep your baby away from people with a cold.
•Wash your hands and your baby’s hands often with soap to prevent the spread of germs.

What are the risks of pneumonia in babies?

The risks of serious illness or death are small if you follow your baby’s healthcare provider advice. If left untreated, pneumonia can be life-threatening.

When should I contact my baby’s healthcare provider?

Contact your child’s caregiver if:

•Your baby has a fever.
•Your baby cannot stop coughing.
•Your baby is tugging at his ears or has ear pain.
•Your baby has diarrhea or is vomiting.
•You have questions or concerns about your baby’s condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care for my baby?

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

•Your baby has a fever.
•Your baby is struggling to breathe or wheezing.
•Your baby’s lips or nails are bluish.
•Your baby’s skin between the ribs and around the neck pulls in with each breath.
•Your baby has any of the following signs of dehydration:
•Your baby is crying without tears
•Your baby has a dry mouth or cracked lip
•Your baby is more irritable or fussy than normal
•Your baby is more sleepy than usual
•Your baby is urinating less than usual or not at all
•Sunken soft spot on the top of the head if your baby is less than 1 year old

*Discuss treatment options with your baby’s healthcare provider to decide what care is best for your baby.