What you need to know

  • Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs that can cause breathing issues, as well as a cough and/or fever.
  • Frequent and proper hand washing, a smoke-free environment and a warm home can help prevent your child from catching pneumonia. 
  • If your baby is under three months old and you think they may have pneumonia, take them to your family doctor.
  • Most children fully recover from pneumonia, but if you are worried about your child call PlunketLine or you family doctor.

Pneumonia can be caused by a virus or bacteria. Your child’s illness will probably start like a cold if a virus is causing the pneumonia.

Symptoms

Your child may have symptoms that include:

  • cough 
  • fever 
  • breathing problems such as: 
    • breathing faster than usual 
    • noisy or rattly breathing 
    • difficulty with feeding 
    • making a grunting sound with breathing 
    • putting a lot of extra effort into breathing 
  • your child may look very tired and unwell. 

Pneumonia in babies

Young babies require extra care. If your baby is under three months old and you think they may have pneumonia, bring them to your family doctor.  

See a doctor urgently if your baby shows any signs of issues with breathing, like:

  • fast breathing 
  • sucking or pulling in under the rib cage, or between each rib 
  • using the muscles around the neck during breathing - this can make it look like your baby's head is bobbing up and down 
  • flaring of the nostrils - the nostrils move out as your baby breathes 
  • extra noises when breathing in or out or both 
  • difficulties feeding, because of breathing issues.

Caring for your child at home

If your child is at home and feeling miserable because of pain or fever, you can:

  • give pain relief to make them feel more comfortable, following the dosage instructions on the bottle 
  • encourage them to drink lots of fluids and eat healthy small meals
  • keep your little one away from other children, to limit the spread of infection, since pneumonia is contagious and spread easily.

If your child has been given antibiotics by a doctor, make sure they take all the medication until it is finished. Usually kids are better in a few weeks, but a cough may last up to four weeks. If your child's cough continues longer than four weeks, go back to the doctor. 

Prevention

There are a few things that can help prevent pneumonia including: 

  • breastfeeding, which helps protect your baby through boosting their immune system, which helps fight off infections and germs  
  • a smoke-free environment  
  • immunisation, which helps prevent serious causes of pneumonia
  • treatment for long-lasting conditions such as asthma 
  • a warm house and good insulation  
  • clean hands, which helps prevent germs that could cause pneumonia, so make sure your child and your family wash their hands regularly and thoroughly
  • staying away from sick whānau and friends when your baby is young
  • a balanced diet and healthy weight. 

When to visit a doctor

See a doctor urgently if your baby is showing any signs of difficulty breathing. Watch your child to see if they are:

  • feeding as usual without shortness of breath 
  • alert and responsive to you
  • sleeping for longer periods than usual 
  • having fewer wet nappies 
  • waking for feeds. 
     

When to dial 111

Some babies and children can become very unwell with pneumonia. Dial 111 within New Zealand and ask for urgent medical help if your child: 

  • has blue lips and tongue 
  • has severe difficulty breathing 
  • is becoming sleepy and will not wake easily 
  • is very pale 
  • is floppy 
  • has periods of irregular breathing or pauses in breathing.
Pneumonia

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