Pneumonia, acquired in the community as opposed to other places like the hospital, is the most common cause of death in children worldwide. Pneumonia, acquired in the community, is defined as an acute lower respiratory tract infection developing in a previously healthy individual. The cause of this type of pneumonia is mostly viral, but differentiating viral and bacterial causes can be challenging. Also, it is not uncommon for a viral infection to precede a bacterial infection in the lungs, which can be the case with children who develop an infection with influenza.
Symptoms that suggest pneumonia include fever, cough, shortness of breath, and breathing faster than normal for age. Additional findings may include specific sounds appreciated on lung exam by your doctor and findings on a chest x-ray (if obtained). Uncomplicated bacterial pneumonia can be effectively treated with oral antibiotics and supportive care in most children outside the hospital setting. Viral infections will not respond to antibiotics, but influenza specifically may respond to specific anti-viral medications. Nevertheless, the degree of respiratory distress or difficulty breathing caused by pneumonia is important to be evaluated to make sure that a child can be treated safely and successfully for pneumonia outside the hospital setting. If you have any questions or concerns about pneumonia in children, be sure to ask your pediatrician or contact your local pediatric urgent care.