Does your baby have PNEUMONIA?
We all remember hearing the catch phrase “come in out of the rain before you catch pneumonia!”. Parents everywhere would yell it out the door to their kids playing in the yard, splashing and playing in the mud and rain.
But what exactly is pneumonia? And yes, your newborn baby can develop pneumonia.
What is pneumonia?
Pneumonia is an “infection of the lung”. It can strike at anytime, however is more prevalent in the colder months, flu season and if your baby has a cold or other upper respiratory infection.
The inflammation or infection from pneumonia causes the small airways to become swollen and make mucous. It can block the airways and reduce the amount of oxygen your baby is able to draw in.
Different types of pneumonia
Pneumonia can be classified into two categories: viral or bacterial.
It can be a result of a respiratory virus, such as a cold or flu, or a bacterial source like group B Streptococcus (GBS).
Viral pneumonia will typically start out like a common cold. However rather then getting better your baby will become more unwell.
Viral pneumonia is typically less severe than the bacterial type.
Babies with bacterial pneumonia will generally have a sudden onset of symptoms. They will appear very unwell.
What are the signs and symptoms of pneumonia?
Babies cannot verbally communicate how they are feeling. Hence the crying and grizzling! There are non-verbal signs and symptoms we can watch out for that could indicate your little one has pneumonia.
Keep in mind that bacterial pneumonia hits hard and fast, whilst viral pneumonia is slower.
- High fever
- Fast, shallow and/or difficult breathing
- Pain in the chest or tummy (again, baby cannot tell us this so keep an eye out for any indication of pain).
- Decreased appetite
- Blue tinge to fingers, toes or mouth
- Fast heart rate
If your baby shows any of these symptoms above, especially after having a virus, cold or flu then you should seek medical attention straight away.
How is pneumonia diagnosed?
Pneumonia can be diagnosed based on the symptoms your baby is showing as well as a few different tests.
Firstly your doctor will listen to your babies’ chest. With this illness, the air sacs in your babies lungs are filled with mucous and gunk there will be diminished air sounds in that lobe.
Your doctor may also order a chest X-Ray. This can show “consolidation” in the lungs – areas of infection.
How do you treat pneumonia in a baby?
The course of treatment will depend on whether it is viral or bacterial, and how unwell your baby is.
If your baby is severely ill they will have to be treated in hospital. Otherwise you can provide what they need at home to help them get better. This will include things like:
- Pain relief
- Medication to lower fever
- Cool mist humidifier or vaporizer
- Sitting in a steam-filled bathroom
What is the treatment for viral pneumonia?
Viruses DO NOT respond to antibiotics. If your baby has viral pneumonia then they should not have them. The best thing you can do for your baby is provide fluids, rest and lots of TLC.
What is the treatment for bacterial pneumonia?
The main course of treatment for bacterial pneumonia in your baby is antibiotics.
Babies who have bacterial pneumonia are generally more unwell and require additional interventions then viral pneumonia. This can include:
- Intravenous fluids.
- Intravenous antibiotics.
- Oxygen via a mask or nasal prongs.
- Suctioning of their airways to clear the mucous.
How do you prevent your baby from developing pneumonia?
Like many things, there is no guaranteed way to stop your baby from developing pneumonia. However, there are some things you can do to decrease the likelihood of it.
- Keep their vaccinations up to date.
- Practice good hand hygiene.
- Keep your home smoke free.
So, is it contagious?
Pneumonia itself is not contagious, but the virus or the bacteria that causes the pneumonia is. Contracting the virus or bacteria from someone with pneumonia, does not mean that you are guaranteed to develop pneumonia, but it is possible. You may instead develop a simple upper respiratory infection, or sinus infection or nothing at all.
How contagious the pneumonia is depends on the type of virus or bacteria and the conditions, but it is best to practice as though every person with pneumonia is contagious and keep them away from your baby! Having an infected person in the home wear a mask is one great way to prevent transmission to your baby. If your baby has pneumonia, do not put a mask on him or her however (for obvious reasons).
Key points to remember about pneumonia.
Whist it is scary to watch your baby suffer, especially if they are finding it hard to breath, pneumonia is treatable. To help you through this tough time here are a few key points to keep in mind:
- Seek medical attention if you are worried or your baby displays any of the signs and symptoms of pneumonia.
- Have your doctor confirm it is bacterial pneumonia before commencing antibiotics. ANTIBIOTICS DO NOT HELP VIRAL PNEUMONIA.
- Do not use any cough suppressants – they do not help.
- Ensure your baby has extra fluids, plenty of rest, and cuddles.
- Most importantly, ask for help. Looking after a sick baby takes its toll on you as the caregiver. You will need plenty of TLC yourself!
Related Articles: The Flu: Does Your Baby Have The Flu (Influenza)? & Baby’s First Cold: A complete Guide for Mom
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