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  • Michael Jubinville, MPH
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Pneumonia is an infection deep in the small airways and air sacs of the lungs. The infection will make the air sacs swell and fill with fluid or pus. This causes intense coughing and can make it hard to breathe.

This article will focus on the type of pneumonia that is spread in places such as the home, school, or daycare.

Infection in the Air Sacs of the Lungs.

http://services.epnet.com/getimage.aspx?imageiid=28642864exh5702.jpgPneumoniaNULLjpgPneumoniaNULL\\filer01\Intellect\images\exh5702.jpgCopyright © 2002 Nucleus Communications, Inc. All rights reserved.18NULL2002-10-012865182864_889031Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


Pneumonia is caused by a germ in the air that you breathe. Germs that most often cause community-acquired pneumonia include:

  • Viruses—such as flu or cold viruses
  • Bacteria
  • Fungus—more likely to happen in people with other health issues like immune system problems

Risk Factors

Pneumonia is more common in children under the age of 5 years.

Other things that may raise a child’s risk of pneumonia include:


A child with pneumonia may have:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Fever and chills
  • Wheezing—a hoarse whistling sound
  • Fast breathing

Children may also:

  • Be less active
  • Seem irritable
  • Have little or no interest in food or feeding
  • Have belly pain or vomiting
  • Have a headache


The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. The doctor may suspect pneumonia based on the exam. Blood and fluids that the child coughs up may be tested. These test are not always needed.

Images of the lungs may be taken with:


The goal of treatment is to get rid of the infection. How that is done depends on what germ caused the infection and the child's overall health. More care may be needed if there is a severe infection. A hospital stay may be needed if the child has breathing problems.

Treatment options may include:


Vaccines may help prevent certain pneumonia. Vaccine schedules for children include:

  • Flu vaccine—in all children aged 6 months and more every year
  • Pneumococcal vaccine:
    • PCV13, PCV15 is recommended in all children, and routinely given to all children aged 2 months to 5 years
    • PCV23 in children aged 2 years and up who have a high risk of infection or a suppressed immune system
  • Hemophilus influenza type B vaccine, routinely given to all children aged 2 months to 5 years
  • Pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine, routinely given to all children aged 2 months to 5 years as part of the DTaP vaccine
  • Pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine, routinely given to children 11 years or older as part of the Tdap vaccine

Some children may have a higher risk of pneumonia. Medicine may be given to these children after a cold or the flu to help prevent pneumonia.

To decrease a child’s risk of any airway infection:

  • Do not let children be around tobacco smoke. Smoke weakens the lungs' resistance to infection.
  • Avoid close contact with people who have a cold or the flu.
  • Encourage children to wash their hands often.
  • Treat any chronic disease.


  • Antibiotics—for an infection caused by a bacteria
  • Antiviral medicines—for an infection caused by viruses
  • Over the counter medicines to reduce fever and discomfort

Oxygen may need to be given for severe infections. This will help increase the level of oxygen in the blood.


A hospital stay may be needed if the child is:

  • Not getting enough oxygen into their blood
  • Dehydrated because they are not able to eat or drink enough

Treatments in the hospital may include:

  • Oxygen therapy to raise levels of oxygen in the blood
  • Nutrition and fluids through IV
  • Medicine given through IV

A hospital stay may also be needed for children with weaker immune systems.





  • Bradley, J.S., Byington, C.L., et al. The management of community-acquired pneumonia in infants and children older than 3 months of age: clinical practice guidelines by the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society and the Infectious Diseases Society of America. Clin Infect Dis, 2011; 53 (7): e25-76.
  • Community-acquired pneumonia in children. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/community-acquired-pneumonia-in-children.
  • Immunization schedules. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/index.html.
  • Pneumonia. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/pneumonia.html.
  • Pneumonia. WHO website. Available at: http://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/pneumonia.
  • 7/17/2023 DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillance https://www.dynamed.com/condition/streptococcus-pneumoniae-pneumonia: National Guideline Centre. Low back pain and sciatica in over 16s: assessment and management. London (UK): National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE); 2016 Nov.Wodi AP, Murthy N, et al. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices Recommended Immunization Schedule for Children and Adolescents Aged 18 Years or Younger - United States, 2023. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2023;72(6):137-140. Published 2023 Feb 10. doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm7206a1.


  • Chelsea Skucek, MSN, BS, RNC-NIC
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.