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Pneumonia diagnosis in children

10 March 2023

Pneumonia is an infection that can affect one or both lungs, causing them to fill with fluid or pus, limiting oxygen absorption. The diagnosis of pneumonia in children can be caused by bacteria, viruses, and even fungi.

Pneumonia in a pediatric patient

Worldwide, according to data from the World Health Organization, pediatric pneumonia is the leading individual cause of infant mortality.

Different infectious agents can result in the onset of pneumonia, these include:

  • Haemophilus influenzae. Second most common cause of bacterial pneumonia in children.
  • Pneumocystis jirobveci. This is an important cause of pneumonia in children under six months with HIV infection.
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae. The leading cause of bacterial pneumonia in children.
  • Syncytial virus. This is the main cause of viral pneumonia in children.

Clinical case of pediatric pneumonia

Although viral pneumonia and bacterial pneumonia have similar symptoms, antibiotics are often used in bacterial pneumonia, which are not effective against viruses, for which the use of antivirals is necessary.

Children under five years old may have cough and shortness of breath. The presence of fever, tachypnea (rapid breathing), or subcostal indrawing (depression or retraction of the lower part of the thorax during breathing) is not mandatory. Wheezing is also recurrent as a result of viral infections.

Severely ill infants may be unable to eat and drink, lose consciousness, have hypothermia, and even have seizures.

Pediatric pneumonia diagnosis

Generally, the time of year and the child’s symptoms are analyzed to achieve the diagnosis of pneumonia in children. Additionally, the doctor can request different tests such as:

  • Bronchoscopy. Allows observation of the lungs’ airways.
  • Sputum culture. Test made to the material that is expelled in the cough and that allows to determine the presence of an infection. It is not a routine test in pediatric patients.
  • Pleural fluids culture. A sample of the fluids contained in the pleural space (the space between the lungs and the chest wall) is cultured to identify the bacteria that cause the disease.
  • Blood test. The blood count allows us to confirm the infections and the arterial blood gas analyzes the amount of carbon dioxide and oxygen present in the blood.
  • Pulse oximetry. For measuring the amount of oxygen in the blood.
  • Chest x-ray. Through the use of X-rays, internal tissues, bones, and organs can be analyzed.
  • Computed tomography of the chest. Also known as chest CT, it generates an image of the structures of the chest.

It must be remembered that it is not necessary to perform each of the tests and the doctor will indicate which ones must be performed to give a correct diagnosis.

Pediatric pneumonia: Treatment:

As there are various causes of the origin of pneumonia, its treatment may also be different in each case, although antibiotics are generally used after being prescribed by your child’s doctor.

Other actions that may be taken to diagnose and treat pediatric pneumonia include proper diet, fluid intake, use of a cool-mist humidifier, use of acetaminophen, and cough medicine as directed by the doctor.

If your child is having severe respiratory problems, they may need to be hospitalized to receive more specific treatments. Due to this, it is important to see your doctor if your son or daughter has any of these symptoms and control the disease promptly.

If you have doubts about the pneumonia diagnosis, come to the ABC Medical Center Pediatrics Center, where we can provide you with specialized care. Contact us!


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    Ricardo Ostos

    Ricardo Ostos

    Content Creator

    Ricardo can convey complex medical information in an accessible and friendly way so that all of our patients can understand and benefit from it. In addition, he has an empathetic approach, offering information and practical advice that really makes a difference in people's lives. #lifebringsustogether.

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