Pneumonia in kids lungs: Early signs in children, treatment strategies | Health - Hindustan Times
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Pneumonia in kids lungs: Early signs in children, treatment strategies for recovery

ByZarafshan Shiraz, New Delhi
Dec 16, 2023 05:44 PM IST

Here are some common symptoms of pneumonia in children, prompt treatment strategies for recovery and additional considerations for parents

Pneumonia, an infection and inflammation of the air sacs in the lungs, is one of the most common childhood illnesses and it can cause serious complications, especially in infants and young children. Early detection and prompt treatment are crucial for ensuring a successful recovery.

Pneumonia in kids lungs: Early signs in children, treatment strategies for recovery (Photo by Freepik)
Pneumonia in kids lungs: Early signs in children, treatment strategies for recovery (Photo by Freepik)

Early Detection:

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Puneet Gupta, Head - Department of Pulmonology, Interventional Pulmonology and Sleep Medicine at Yatharth Hospitals, shared that the symptoms of pneumonia in children can vary depending on their age and overall health where some common symptoms include -

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  • Cough: This is usually the most noticeable symptom and can be dry or productive (with phlegm).
  • Fever: A temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher is typically present.
  • Rapid breathing: Children with pneumonia may breathe faster than usual, especially when at rest.
  • Wheezing: This is a whistling sound that occurs when breathing and indicates airway narrowing.
  • Chest pain or difficulty breathing: These symptoms can be severe and require immediate medical attention.

In addition to these symptoms, healthcare professionals should also be aware of other factors that can increase a child's risk of developing pneumonia, such as:

  • Premature birth
  • Low birth weight
  • Chronic respiratory conditions (e.g., asthma, cystic fibrosis)
  • Weakened immune system
  • Exposure to second-hand smoke

Dr Puneet Gupta said, “Early diagnosis of pneumonia is essential for effective treatment. Healthcare professionals should consider the child's symptoms, risk factors, and medical history when making a diagnosis. Diagnostic tests, such as chest X-rays and blood tests, may be ordered to confirm the diagnosis.”

Pneumonia affects millions of children worldwide, posing a significant threat to their health and well-being. Bringing his expertise to the same, Dr Nikhil Modi, Senior Consultant, Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine at Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, talked about early detection and recognising the signs and said, “Children, especially infants and toddlers, are more susceptible to pneumonia due to their immature immune systems and smaller airways. Recognising early signs is crucial for prompt medical intervention and successful treatment.”

He listed some common symptoms of pneumonia in children as -

  • Cough: Persistent cough, often with phlegm
  • Fever: High temperature (above 100.4°F)
  • Rapid or difficult breathing: Shallow breaths, wheezing, or chest retractions
  • Loss of appetite: Decreased interest in eating or drinking
  • Lethargy: Excessive tiredness or lack of energy
  • Irritability: Increased fussiness or crying
  • Vomiting or diarrhea: In some cases

Treatment:

According to Dr Puneet Gupta, the specific treatment for pneumonia will depend on the severity of the illness, the type of bacteria or virus causing it and the child's overall health however, some common treatment options include -

  • Antibiotics: These medications are used to treat bacterial pneumonia.
  • Antiviral medications: These medications are used to treat viral pneumonia.
  • Over-the-counter medications: These medications can help relieve symptoms such as fever, pain, and cough.
  • Rest and fluids: It is important for children with pneumonia to get plenty of rest and drink plenty of fluids.
  • Oxygen therapy: In severe cases, children may need oxygen therapy to help them breathe.

Echoing that early diagnosis and prompt treatment are critical for managing pneumonia in children, Dr Nikhil Modi pointed out that the treatment strategy depends on the severity of the illness and the underlying cause, which may be bacterial, viral or fungal. Here are some common treatment options for pediatric pneumonia as per him -

  • Antibiotics: For bacterial pneumonia, antibiotics are the primary treatment.
  • Antivirals: For viral pneumonia, certain antiviral medications may be prescribed.
  • Antifungal medications: For fungal pneumonia, specific antifungal medications are necessary.
  • Oxygen therapy: In cases of severe respiratory distress, oxygen therapy may be needed.
  • Pain relievers: Medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help manage fever and discomfort.
  • Rest and fluids: Adequate rest and hydration are crucial for recovery.

Ongoing Pediatric Care:

Following successful treatment, Dr Puneet Gupta stated children who have had pneumonia should receive ongoing pediatric care to monitor their recovery and prevent future infections and this may include:

  • Regular check-ups with their pediatrician
  • Monitoring for any new or worsening symptoms
  • Vaccinations against pneumonia-causing bacteria and viruses
  • Addressing any underlying health conditions that may have contributed to the development of pneumonia

Dr Puneet Gupta asserted, “Pneumonia can be a serious illness in children but early detection, prompt treatment, and ongoing pediatric care can help ensure a successful recovery. By being aware of the symptoms, risk factors and best practices for diagnosis and management, healthcare professionals can play a vital role in protecting children from this potentially life-threatening illness.”

Adding to the list, Dr Nikhil Modi revealed here's what you can expect -

  • Follow-up appointments: Regular check-ups with your child's pediatrician are crucial to monitor their progress and address any lingering concerns.
  • Chest X-rays: Follow-up X-rays may be ordered to ensure complete resolution of the pneumonia.
  • Management of underlying conditions: If your child has any underlying health conditions like asthma or cystic fibrosis, close collaboration with pediatric specialists is crucial to manage these conditions and prevent future pneumonia episodes.
  • Vaccinations: Staying up-to-date on recommended vaccinations, including the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13), can help protect your child from future pneumonia infections.

Additional Considerations for Parents:

Dr Nikhil Modi suggested -

  • Seek immediate medical attention if your child exhibits any concerning symptoms, especially if they experience difficulty breathing or rapid breathing.
  • Create a comfortable and supportive environment for your child during their recovery.
  • Stay informed about pneumonia and its effects on children. Educational resources from reputable organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are invaluable.
  • Communicate openly with your child's pediatrician about any concerns or questions you may have.

Remember, early detection, prompt treatment and ongoing pediatric care are the cornerstones of successful management of pneumonia in children. By working closely with your child's pediatrician and staying informed, you can ensure their optimal health and well-being.

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