In 10 questions to the doctor, what you need to know about prevention and treatment of this respiratory infection (every year, November 12, is celebrated on World Day against Pneumonia), which affects the lungs and can be very serious in some babies and children.
What is it?
Pneumonia is a respiratory disease that causes inflammation of the lung. It is caused most often by a bacterial, viral or fungal infection. Other non-infectious pneumonic pulmonary inflammations, such as those produced by aspiration of gastric contents, are rare.
Are pneumonia spread in children?
Yes. It is transmitted by breathing when inhaling germs expelled with a cough and sneezing of the child with pneumonia. Germs that cause pneumonia also cause other diseases, such as colds, bronchitis, rhinitis or none at all, in so-called healthy carriers. This means that a child suffering from pneumonia can infect another, but in this case, the germ may produce a simple pharyngitis.
Are there risk factors?
Anyone can have pneumonia, but some children have more risk factors. Among them: prematurity, malnutrition, low socioeconomic status (due to poor hygiene and poor diet), passive exposure to tobacco smoke, attendance at nursery school and, above all, suffering from a basic disease that affects your immune system.
What are the symptoms of pneumonia in children?
They are variables and depend on the age of the child and the germ causing. In general, they are fever, persistent cough, rapid breathing and shortness of breath (the ribs are very noticeable when breathing). When pneumonia is bacterial, it occurs abruptly, with a very high fever (above 38 ° C), poor general condition, side pain in the older child or abdominal pain in the smallest. Many times a cough has not appeared. In front of a picture like this, a chest x-ray is made. Viral pneumonia in children is characterized by low fever, sometimes no cough, shortness of breath, mild respiratory distress, etc. It looks like a bronchial cold, but the pediatrician, when exploring and listening to the child, knows that it is pneumonia and asks for a chest x-ray.
How is pneumonia diagnosed in children?
The diagnosis is made based on the child’s medical history and examination. The auscultation is quite indicative and the chest X-ray confirms the diagnosis.
Which is the baby pneumonia treatment?
It depends on the germ that causes it. Bacterial pneumonia responds very well to the appropriate antibiotic, whereas viral pneumonia requires only supportive measures, ie temperature control with antipyretics, maintaining good hydration and symptomatic treatment of a cough (if it is productive and does not disturb the patient, it is advisable not to cut it to expel the secretions) and other symptoms that may appear. Sometimes the doctor cannot differentiate if it is viral or bacterial, in which case the correct thing is to administer antibiotics, in addition to the measures of support.
Do you need hospitalization?
Whenever the child is less than 3 months old, he does need it. In addition, in children under 3 years, when oxygen saturation is less than 92%, respiratory rate is higher than 70 or if there are obvious signs of difficulty breathing and if you have difficulty feeding. In children older than 3 years, poor oxygenation (less than 92%) and respiratory rate greater than 50 breaths per minute justify admission. Difficulty breathing and signs of dehydration are also serious. At any age, poor general condition, poor response to treatment, underlying disease, social problems, or complications of pneumonia such as pleural effusion, advise admission.
How long does pneumonia last in children?
In general, uncomplicated pneumonia produced by the usual germs needs to be treated for ten days. If the disease has been relatively significant, it is advisable to perform a full cure control radiograph after about six weeks.
Does it leave sequels?
Although in most cases the cure is complete, sometimes due to the aggressiveness of the germ. Due to inadequate treatment or previous pathology of the child. Pneumonia can cause post-pneumonic bronchiectasis (bronchial destruction) in children.
Can it be prevented?
There are no specific measures to prevent pneumonia in children. Administration of certain vaccines, such as those applied to pneumococcus and Haemophilus influenza, may prevent some pneumonia.