When to Suspect Pneumonia

Over the past two weeks I have noticed unusually frequent cases of pneumonia among children coming to my practice. Pneumonia has to be promptly treated with antibiotics: a recent study showed that in critically ill children with pneumonia, delays of even a few hours to treatment with the correct antibiotic increase risk for severe complications [1].

What is pneumonia and when should you suspect it? Pneumonia is an infection in the lung (or both lungs). It usually starts acutely with high fever and cough. Children with pneumonia look sick, they have decreased energy and appetite, they may vomit from cough and their breathing is fast and labored. Also pneumonia happens more often in kids who have history of asthma, since their lungs are more susceptible for infections. Pneumonia may occur as a complication of Influenza or the other viral infection, so if you notice a turn for worse after a period of “cold” — if you see high fever, vomiting or trouble breathing — take your child to see his pediatrician or bring him to the ER.

[1] Jennifer Muszynski et al, Timing of Correct Parenteral Antibiotic Initiation and Outcomes from Severe Bacterial Community-Acquired Pneumonia in Children, The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal, April 2011, doi: 10.1097/INF.0b013e3181ff64ec


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