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Pneumonia in children

Patient information A-Z

What is pneumonia?

Pneumonia, a chest infection, is an acute infection of the lungs which may be confirmed by chest x-ray depending how unwell the child is.

What causes pneumonia?

Pneumonia may be caused either by bacteria (30%) or viruses (70%) transmitted in the environment, usually by droplets in the air.

Who is most likely to get pneumonia?

Pneumonia may occur at any age throughout life.

How is the diagnosis of pneumonia made?

In order to make a diagnosis of pneumonia, a full history is taken by the doctor, paying attention to some key symptoms and signs, which include:

  • fever(s)
  • fast breathing (occurring both with and without fever)
  • difficulty with breathing
  • cough
  • fast heart rate
  • pallor and listlessness
  • crackly noises and reduced air movement when the chest is listened to with a stethoscope

Will any tests be carried out?

If pneumonia is suspected, the following investigations may help with the diagnosis:

  • observations, including respiratory rate, heart rate, oxygen saturations, blood pressure and temperature
  • blood tests
  • chest x-ray, but only if your child is unwell and needs admission to hospital

What medical treatment might your child receive for pneumonia?

  • Oxygen – this may be given via a facemask, or fine tubes into the nose (nasal cannula).
  • Antibiotics – given into a vein (a ‘drip’) and then by mouth following discharge from hospital.
  • Fluids – given into the vein via the drip and switched off when your child is drinking sufficiently.

When should you seek medical help following discharge?

Your child will only be discharged from hospital when considered well enough, and no longer requiring oxygen. They will usually be sent home with antibiotics – it is important that the prescribed course is completed. If your child does not seem to be improving following discharge take them to see your GP.

Will my child have any long-term problems?

Pneumonia is an acute infection of the lungs and children usually recover quickly with treatment. However, they may be tired and off their food for a few weeks following the infection.

Pneumonia does not usually result in any long-term chest problems.

Name of child:

Date of hospital admission:

Treatment discharged on:

Outpatient follow-up appointment:

If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to ask the nursing staff.

If you are at all concerned about your child, please contact:

Ward ………

Tel: 01223 …………….

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Contact us

Cambridge University Hospitals
NHS Foundation Trust
Hills Road, Cambridge

Telephone +44 (0)1223 245151