Pneumonia, the silent killer, is often misguided and misinterpreted owing to its similarity with the symptoms of common cold or flu. It refers to an infection affecting the lungs which can result from a variety of micro-organisms including bacteria, viruses and parasites. Pneumonia in children may differ depending on the age of the child and the cause of the infection. Generally it starts after an upper respiratory tract infection of the nose and throat with cold or sore throat, which can take the turn of pneumonia after 2 to 3 days. The most common ones, caused by the attack of viruses, include ones caused by rhinovirus, adenovirus, influenza virus, para influenza and respiratory syncytial virus which, if not treated on time, can even claim the life of your little one.
The symptoms of pneumonia may vary depending on the source of the infection and can be segregated into two main heads viz bacterial pneumonia and non bacterial pneumonia. While pneumonia caused by the former gets identified faster, the one caused by the latter may take time in highlighting itself, and thus creates difficulties in identification.
In yet other peculiar cases of pneumonia, they exhibit important clues which make it simple to identify the germ which has caused the infection. For example, pneumonia caused due to mycoplasm in older kids and adolescents is known for causing sore throat, headache and rashes all over the body, over and above the other common pneumonia signs like fever, cough and breathlessness.
Symptoms of pneumonia in children
1. Fever accompanied with rapid breathing
When the cause of pneumonia, affecting your child, is bacteria, they generally tend to show up more rapidly than otherwise. It begins after an upper respiratory infection such as flu or cold and ends up with high fever, teeth-chattering chills, nasal congestion, cough and unusually rapid breathing. If this is the case, one should consult the doctor immediately, without further delay, and should not be neglected interpreting it to be a normal cold infection.
2. Breathing with grunting sound
Many a times kids do not show up intense symptoms of pneumonia and might just have rapid breathing with a peculiar grunting or wheezing sound. Such labored breathing, which tend to make the rib muscles contract inward with every breath and even cause the nose to flare up should be immediately identified as a worsening condition of pneumonia which needs to be handled immediately by a professional medical practitioner.
3. Expulsion of phlegm with cough
A very common and persistent sign of pneumonia is when the child suffers from intense cough which produces mucus or sputum from the lungs. The color of the phlegm may vary from rusty or tinged with blood or greenish color. The kid, however, should be encouraged constantly to spit out the mucus and swallow it as this may worsen the condition.
4. Pain in the chest or abdomen
Symptoms of pneumonia may even show up in the form of vomiting accompanied with chest pain in the lower part of the lungs close to the abdomen. In such cases, the child may have fever and abdominal pain but no breathing disorders. However, the pain in the chest wall may get aggravated by coughing which might make him feel completely sloshed out.
5. Shortness of breath and wheezing
Kids suffering from pneumonia caused by a non-bacterial infection or a viral infection show up more gradually and are not as obvious and bad as in case of bacterial pneumonia. Its prime symptom is wheezing and feeling short of breath. Since the child does not feel very sick in such cases, it is considered to be more deceptive and difficult to ascertain. Doctors term this condition as walking pneumonia as it reflects very mild signs of illness such as mild fever, cough with very little mucus at times and the child can keep moving around without feeling totally drained out.
6. Decreased activity in infants
In case of infants, aged less than a month, the child is affected by pneumonia if he shows signs of lethargy, is not taking proper feeds. Look out for grunting sounds, fever accompanied by cough and loss of activity and if these appear positive, consult your pediatrician immediately. The doctor, however, may look out for signs like heavy breathing with cough and even check the breathing rate which would have gone up to more than 60 breaths a minute. The infant may even have dehydration due to poor feeding and in some extreme cases, the lips and fingernails of the newborn may turn bluish or grey in color.
7. Pneumonia due to chlamydia
In infants, when pneumonia is a result of chlamydia, it would be accompanied with conjunctivitis, a pink eye, with only mild signs of illness and absolutely no fever. This situation should be handled very carefully and should not be dismissed as an ordinary eye infection. Contact your doctor immediately before the condition of the child worsens. In yet another type of pneumonia in infants, it might be caused due to whooping cough, known as pertusis in medical terms. Under such circumstances, a child may suffer from long spells of non-stop coughing, might turn blue due to lack of air, vomit out food with cough or display the traditional whooping sound while catching up with his breath. However, if your child turns blue during a coughing fit, it signals an emergency call and the child should be immediately rushed to the doctor.
To conclude, pneumonia is an illness in which no two children show up the same signs and symptoms. Hence, you should not make the mistake of comparing your child’s behavioral pattern with others of his age when he seems to be struggling to recover from an illness. Anything unusual or peculiar activity or behavior on the child’s part should be immediately reported to the doctor so as to prevent any unforeseen fatal consequences from taking place.