What is Pneumonia?

Pneumonia is a lung infection. It can be caused by 2 different types of germs called viruses or bacteria. These infections cause inflammation (swelling) of the lungs.

What Are the Symptoms of Pneumonia?

  • A cough with or without lots of phlegm (mucus)
  • Faster breathing than usual
  • Trouble breast or bottle feeding
  • Chest pain
  • Fever
  • Sweating
  • Chills

Can Other People Catch Pneumonia?

Yes. Other people can catch certain types of pneumonia from someone who has it.

How Long Will It Take For My Child to Recover?

It depends on the type of pneumonia your child has. If your child’s doctor prescribed antibiotics, your child should start to feel better 2-3 days after starting the antibiotics.

If your child has a mild case of pneumonia, they should get better within 2-3 weeks. If your child has a severe (worse or very bad) case, it can take about 6-8 weeks.

How Do I Care For My Child While They Recover?

Medications

  • If your child’s doctor prescribed antibiotics, make sure your child takes them correctly. Antibiotics will only help pneumonia caused by bacteria. They will not help pneumonia caused by viruses.
  • If your child has pain or a fever, ask the doctor which medications you can give your child to help him feel more comfortable. Acetaminophen (Tylenol®) and ibuprofen (Motrin®) can help relieve fever and discomfort.
  • Do not give your child aspirin or cough medication. Cough medication is not safe for children. Aspirin can cause a serious illness caused Reye’s syndrome (swelling of the liver and brain).

Rest and fluids

  • Make sure your child gets plenty of rest. The doctor will tell you when your child can go back to his normal activities.
  • Your child may limit their activity based on how they feel. If your child seems lethargic, please call the care team.
  • Make sure your child drinks plenty of fluids. Give small sips throughout the day. Sports drinks, Pedialyte® and Infalyte® are helpful. They have a good mix of sugar, salt and minerals to keep your child hydrated. Buy these drinks at the grocery store or drug store.

Hygiene and preventing germs from spreading

  • To keep germs from spreading, teach your child to sneeze or cough into their elbow. Sneezing or coughing into your hand can make germs spread easier.
  • Have your child wash their hands very well and very often. You can set a good example by washing your own hands often.
  • Clean surfaces that you touch often, like doorknobs, toys and tables.
  • Ask your doctor if your child can get vaccines against some of the germs (bacteria and viruses) that cause pneumonia. Vaccines such as the flu vaccine can help protect your child and family members.

When Should My Child See The Doctor?

Call the doctor if your child has any of these symptoms:

  • Trouble breathing or wheezing (whistling sound when breathing)
  • A fever AND cough with a lot of mucus for more than 2 days
  • Coughing up blood
  • Refusing to drink fluids by mouth
  • Not getting better as expected
  • If you have questions or concerns

When Should I Call 911?

Call 911 or go to your closest emergency room if your child has any of these symptoms:

  • Breathing so hard that the belly muscles or ribs pull into the body
  • Flaring nostrils (nostrils widen)
  • Turning blue around the lips

Rev. 6/2020. MassGeneral Hospital for Children and Massachusetts General Hospital do not endorse any of the brands listed on this handout. This handout is intended to provide health information so that you can be better informed. It is not a substitute for medical advice and should not be used to treatment of any medical conditions.