Pneumonia is a lung infection causing inflammation of the air sacs. Bacteria, fungi, parasites or mostly viruses are the pathogens that cause pneumonia in children. It generally starts after a child develops a cold, flu, or upper respiratory infection. For most healthy kids, pneumonia settles in 2 or 3 weeks, but in a few cases, children become severely ill and need hospital treatment. Typically, for kids with a poor immune system or other health problems, pneumonia can be a very severe illness.
Recurrent pneumonia in children is a disease condition that involves repeated or frequent episodes of pneumonia.
Well before discussing the causes and treatment of recurrent pneumonia in children, it is essential that you know about pneumonia and how it develops.
Causes Of Pneumonia In Children
Pneumonia in children usually starts after an upper respiratory tract infection, a cold or flu or it can be caused by:
Viruses: Viruses that cause cold and flu can cause pneumonia and it is the most common cause of pneumonia in children under 5 years of age. Viral pneumonia is usually mild, but it can become serious. Viruses causing pneumonia include Adenovirus, rhinovirus, influenza virus, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), Human metapneumovirus, and parainfluenza virus.
Bacteria: Bacteria can cause pneumonia after a cold or flu or on their own. Streptococcus pneumonia is the most common one.
Fungi: It is more commonly seen in children with weakened immune system or who have inhaled substantial amounts of pathogens.
Symptoms Of Pneumonia In Children
Symptoms of pneumonia in kids differ depending on the child’s age, health status, the root cause of infection, type of pneumonia and location of pneumonia in the lung. For instance, if pneumonia is caused by bacteria, then severe symptoms may develop rapidly. For viral pneumonia, symptoms develop more slowly. Some of the symptoms of pneumonia in children are more similar to cold or flu and include:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Difficulty breathing
- Children under 2 years of age
- Chronic disease
- Weakened immune system – who had undergone an organ transplant, HIV, have had chemotherapy or are on long-term steroids
Breathing Difficulty: Pneumonia in children associated with chronic lung problems like asthma can make it hard for a child to breathe and take in adequate oxygen.
Pleural Effusion: Pneumonia can cause fluid to build up in the space between the tissue lining lungs and the chest cavity(pleura). This fluid can possibly become infected and need to be drained through surgery or a chest tube.
Bacteraemia: Bacteria from the lungs can penetrate the bloodstream and easily transmit the infection to other organs.
Lung Abscess: Any pus formed in the cavity of the lungs, it is known as a lung abscess and needs antibiotics and at times drainage.
Recurrent Pneumonia In Children
Recurrent pneumonia is a concerning and highly dangerous condition in children. It is defined as 2 or more episodes of pneumonia in a year, or 3 episodes ever parted by an asymptomatic period in a month or clear chest X-rays.
Most kids with properly identified recurrent pneumonia have a known predisposing factor. Some of the underlying causes of recurrent pneumonia in children include:
- Aspiration Syndrome
- Pulmonary anomalies and structural abnormalities
- Immune disorders
- Congenital Heart Defects
- Gastroesophageal Reflux (GERD)
- Sickle cell anaemia
- Hypersecretory Asthma - overproduction of bronchial secretions
- Bronchiectasis- caused due to cystic fibrosis, primary ciliary dyskinesia, immunodeficiency, retained foreign body and recurrent aspiration
The doctor will thoroughly examine the child’s lung with a stethoscope and if pneumonia is suspected then he may suggest certain pulmonary tests:
Chest X-ray: Chest X-ray can help to identify the presence of pneumonia and location in the lung.
Blood Test: Blood works help to identify the cause of pneumonia infection.
Sputum Test: This test can help assess the cause by collecting the sputum and further analysing the sample.
Pulse Oximetry: If the child is having breathing difficulty, then pulse oximetry can be used to check if the child is getting adequate oxygen.
The treatment mode depends on the cause of pneumonia, the severity of the condition and age of the child. The doctor would suggest both prescription and over the counter medication for effectively treating the condition.
Antibiotics are prescribed to treat infections and bacterial pneumonia.
Over the counter (OTC) medications are used to reduce fever.
Hospitalization: The child may need to be hospitalized for more intense treatment if they have:
- A rapid heart rate
- Rapid breathing
- Breathing difficulty
- Elevated temperature
Treatment of recurrent pneumonia is aimed at treating pneumonia itself, as the symptoms and complications are an utmost concern that must be addressed in children. The treatment mode follows the same course as single episodes of pneumonia with medications.Once pneumonia has settled, it is important to determine the underlying conditions, risks and complications and tailor treatment accordingly.