Pneumonia is the name of a medical condition in which the lungs are affected by an infection. This infection can stem from a range of different microorganisms which can include parasites, bacteria, viruses and even fungi.
In most of the cases of pneumonia, the starting point of the disease is an infection in the upper portion of the respiratory tract, which includes the nose and the throat. When the patient has had a sore throat or been suffering from cold for at least two days, the initial symptoms of pneumonia begin to appear. A lot of things can be done to prevent pneumonia in babies.
Causes of Pneumonia in Babies
Since the bodies of the infants and old people are not able to cope with the infections caused by the virus, they are prime candidates for contracting viral pneumonia.
The viruses that can be blamed for causing viral pneumonia include:
- Respiratory syncytial virus
Viral pneumonia of a serious nature usually tends to affect those people whose immune systems are not functioning at their peak capacity. Such people may include:
- Premature babies
- Infants born with complications of the lung and heart
- People who have undergone an organ transplant
- People having HIV infection
- Cancer patients who are undergoing chemotherapy or those who are taking corticosteroids and other medications that suppress the immune system
Symptoms of Pneumonia in Babies
Pneumonia attacks can happen in a short space of time or can manifest in many days. Since common cold and pneumonia are so closely related, differentiating between them can be a handful and many times parents confuse the symptoms of pneumonia with common cold and do not take the appropriate measures quickly. If you find your baby showing the following symptoms then you should never hesitate but take him/her to the doctor’s clinic immediately.
- Loss of appetite
- Coughing fits that end up in the baby exuding mucus
- Irritable behavior and a general feeling that the baby is not well
Besides these initial symptoms, in some cases the baby might develop some serious symptoms of pneumonia which need to be treated by a doctor at his clinic. These symptoms include:
- Having a fever
- Coughing up mucus which is stained with blood or pus
- Less consumption of fluids than normal during the course of a day
- Fingernails and lips turning blue
- Producing sounds while breathing (wheezing)
- Skin being sucked in between the ribs when breathing
Diagnosis of Pneumonia in Babies
The diagnosis of pneumonia in babies is done in three different stages. In the first stage the doctor is going to check the baby’s breathing pattern using a stethoscope to see if there is any sort of fluid buildup in the lungs. He might also have a look at the baby’s heart rate and inquire about any other symptoms that you might have noticed.
In the second stage of diagnosis, the doctor will most probably ask for a chest X-ray which will reveal the extent of damage suffered by the lungs. However, this phase of diagnosis will only be required if the doctor feels that something is really wrong with the baby. Blood and mucus tests are the third and final stage of diagnosis that determines what type of infection is causing the disease, bacterial or viral.
Treatments of Pneumonia in Babies
The treatment given for pneumonia in babies depends on the severity of the symptoms. If the pneumonia is of a mild nature than the treatment of the baby can be done at home, however, if the symptoms are f a severe nature then the baby would have to be hospitalized.
1. Care at Home
The following are some of the treatments that can be administered at home to babies suffering from pneumonia.
- Give them plenty of fluids either in the form of milk or water
- Give them as much rest as possible
- Give infant ibuprofen or infant paracetamol if your baby is healthy and old enough
- Keep on checking the nails and the lips of the child and if they turn blue or gray then take him/her to the hospital because it is an indication that the child is not being able to inhale enough oxygen
- Make use of a warm compress and a heating pad if your child complains of chest pain
If the baby is suffering from bacterial pneumonia then he/she would be given antibiotics whereas in case of viral pneumonia, the baby’s immune system will eventually fight off the virus and the symptoms will recede on their own.
3. Hydration and Oxygen
Babies that have to be hospitalized are given antibiotics through drips and are kept well hydrated. In cases if the baby is having difficulty in breathing then an oxygen mask can also be used to ensure that he/she is getting the right amount of oxygen in his/her blood.
4. Giving Medication Properly
Make sure that the baby is given the medication at the proper time and the complete course is given to him/her without any lapses. This is important because it will help your child in making a quick recovery and will save the other family members from contracting the disease from him/her.
5. Coughing and Mucus Management
Coughing is by far the most hard to endure symptom of pneumonia and can be very taxing for an infant. During coughing fits, the child may have mucus coming in his mouth. If this happens then ask him/her to spit it out and not try to keep it in. If the child is not old enough to do this then pat his/her back to get the mucus out. Keeping a pillow under his/her head at night might also be a good way of ensuring that the mucus is not sucked in to the throat.
Preventions of Pneumonia in Babies
The following are some of the preventive measures that can be taken to ensure that your baby does not contract pneumonia.
- Stop the spread of germs by washing your and your baby’s hands as often as possible and covering up your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing.
- Complete the vaccination courses that have been prescribed for infants. These vaccines can help in keeping the children safe from a number of diseases including pneumonia.
- Do not smoke near or around the baby as cigarette smoke can make them ill and increase the chances of them contracting diseases like pneumonia and asthma.