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An Unexpected Diagnosis of Pneumonia

Pneumonia is a scary diagnosis that is often surprising for parents because children do not seem to be “that sick.” Parents expect a diagnosis of pneumonia in a child who has blue lips and skin, high fever or other dramatic signs of the illness.

In fact, Pneumonia can be due to many different viruses and bacteria. It can be mild (example walking pneumonia, so called because most children stay pretty active despite being sick) or life threatening. Children can have a variety of symptoms – from the typical like cough and fever in older children, to the subtle like belly pain, rapid breathing, vomiting, and poor feeding in young children and infants.

Symptoms of Pneumonia

What to look for to determine if your child is having difficulty breathing:

  • Belly breathing – when the tummy pushes out on each breath and then sucks in on inhale
  • Noises when you child breathes in or out
    • Grunting
    • Wheezing
    • Whistling
  • Flaring of the nostrils
  • Ribs looking more prominent as your child breathes
  • Increased respiratory rate (<50 breaths/min. is considered normal for infants, <30 for children under 5, and less than 20 for older children)

If you determine that your child is working harder than normal to breathe, then it is time to go to his/her pediatrician, urgent care or even the emergency department depending on your level of concern.  Breathing issues regardless of whether they are caused by pneumonia or other illness or issue can be severe and even life-threatening and it is important for your child to be evaluated by a health care provider.

More About Pneumonia

The way pneumonia presents is different based on child’s pre-existing illnesses like asthma and their age.

Pneumonia is a general term for a lung infection and can be caused by both bacteria and viruses.  Frequently both viral and bacterial pneumonia occur after someone has a cold or the flu. Other common symptoms of pneumonia can include:

  • Chest pain when you breathe or cough
  • Cough, which may produce phlegm
  • Fatigue, poor appetite
  • Fever – in children with pneumonia, fever tends to be higher (above 102) than with viral infections and lasts longer (more than 3 days)
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Shortness of breath

About Aleksandra Avery, MD

Dr. Aleksandra Avery is a primary care physician with WakeMed Physician Practices – Garner Primary Care, specializing in internal medicine and pediatrics.

WakeMed is the leading provider of care to children and their families in Wake County, featuring a Children’s Hospital, dedicated Children’s Emergency Department and many family medicine and specialist physicians who care for pediatric patients.