What are the Symptoms of Pneumonia?

How to know if your child could have Pneumonia

What are the symptoms of pneumonia in children? Will your child’s cough settle on its own? Will it be dangerous to wait and watch? How to know if your child needs to be seen by a child specialist? Read on to find out…

What is pneumonia in children?

Pneumonia is an infection in the lungs. It is usually more commonly seen in kids below 5 years of age. It may be caused by bacteria or viruses. As a result of the invasion by the bacteria or virus, the body sets about trying to fight it off. As a part of this fight, the air sacs in the lungs get swollen and produce a lot of mucus. This mucus may then block the airways and decrease the amount of oxygen that reaches the body.

What are the Symptoms of Pneumonia in children?

If your baby is a newborn or less than a month old, watch out for the below signs:

  • Fast breathing or have spells of pauses in breathing
  • Difficulty with breathing – you can suspect that your baby is having a difficulty in breathing if they are bobbing their head with each breath or are grunting while breathing or their nostrils are flaring or their ribs / skin near the neck looks like it is being sucked in while breathing.
  • Not taking their feeds as  usual
  • Have not wet their nappy for more than 12 hours
  • Are running a high temperature
  • Are more cranky or irritable or tired than usual

If your baby is above 1 month of age, you may notice some additional signs like:

  • Cough that sounds like it is accompanied by mucus
  • Breathing loudly / making wheezy sounds while breathing

If your child is a toddler or older, they may be able to complain of certain symptoms in addition to the above signs:

  • pain in chest especially during coughing or pain in tummy
  • vomiting after cough
  • refusal to eat or drink

When should you visit your doctor?

If your child shows any of the below, make sure to visit your child specialist or pediatric pulmonologist at the earliest:

  • Their fever lasts for more than a few days
  • Their breathing becomes difficult
  • They cannot drink enough fluids
  • New symptoms come up such as neck stiffness or swelling in joints
  • They become more drowsy or are difficult to wake

How is pneumonia treated?

Pneumonia that is caused by viruses is usually mild and more common. Antibiotics do not work against viruses. That is why your pediatric pulmonologist may prescribe medicines for fever and cough and may not prescribe antibiotics.

Bacterial pneumonias may be mild, when they can be treated by antibiotics given at home as prescribed by your pediatric pulmonologist or may be severe requiring hospital admission.

Bacterial pneumonias usually improve within 48 hours of starting antibiotics while viral pneumonias may take longer, sometimes even up to 4 weeks. How do you know if your child has bacterial or viral pneumonia? Your doctor will be able to diagnose it after they have seen your child.

How can you care for your child with pneumonia?

  • Prevent dehydration by giving plenty of liquids in the form of soups, water or breast milk.
  • Let your child rest.
  • Do not force feed your child to eat as long as they are consuming fluids.
  • Do not give cough suppressant syrups or antibiotics without consulting your child specialist. Your child may stand the risk of becoming resistant to antibiotics if used indiscriminately.

How can I prevent symptoms of pneumonia in my child?

  • Teaching kids about hygiene is the first step to preventing infections. Teach your child to cover their nose and mouth while coughing or sneezing. Remind them about hand washing.
  • Some pneumonias can be prevented by vaccines. Talk to your doctor about vaccines for pneumonia and whether your child can take them.
  • Whenever possible, keep other children away from the child who has a stuffy nose, sore throat or cough.

Thus, pneumonias range from mild illnesses to severe ones. Whenever you suspect that your child may have symptoms of pneumonia, do not hesitate to visit your child specialist or nearest Pediatric Pulmonologist.


Dr. Indu Khosla is a Pediatric Pulmonologist & Pediatric Sleep Specialist practicing at Andheri in Mumbai. Dr. Indu Khosla can be reached via whatsapp at 8779982090 or via call at 022-26355829 / 022-26300730 or via email at drindunh@gmail.com. Alternatively you can reach Dr. Indu Khosla by filing out the form below:

Expert Moderator: Dr. Indu Khosla | Blog Author: Dr. Amrita Sodhi

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