Springdale Mason Pediatrics

Pneumonia - Viral

Definition

  • A viral infection of the lungs

Call or Return If

  • Fever lasts over 3 days
  • Breathing becomes difficult
  • Breathing not back to normal by 1 week
  • You think your child needs to be seen
  • Your child becomes worse

About This Topic

Symptoms

  • Trouble breathing
  • Rapid breathing
  • Coughing
  • Fever

Diagnosis

  • A doctor can diagnose pneumonia by listening to the chest with a stethoscope.

Cause

  • Most pneumonia in children is caused by a virus. Most often, it's a complication of a cold.
  • Pneumonia causes fluid to collect in the air sacs (alveoli). This can interfere with the transfer of oxygen from air to blood.
  • Viral pneumonia is usually milder than bacterial pneumonia.

Prevention of Spread to Others

  • Cover the nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
  • Wash hands often. After coughing or sneezing are important times.
  • Most children who are exposed to viral pneumonia just get cold symptoms. A few may get pneumonia.
  • There is a mild risk that it may be passed to others.

After Care Advice

Overview:
  • Most pneumonia in children is caused by viruses.
  • Viral pneumonia usually is not severe.
  • Coughing up mucus helps to clear the pneumonia. We don't want to turn off your child's ability to cough.
  • Here is some care advice that should help.
Antibiotics Not Needed:
  • Antibiotics are not helpful for viral pneumonia.
  • They can only kill bacteria.
Homemade Cough Medicine:
  • Goal: Decrease the irritation or tickle in the throat that causes a dry cough.
  • AGE 3 months to 1 year: Give warm clear fluids to treat the cough. Examples are apple juice and lemonade. Amount: Use a dose of 1-3 teaspoons (5-15 ml). Give 4 times per day when coughing. Caution: Do not use honey until 1 year old.
  • AGE 1 year and older: Use HONEY ½ to 1 teaspoon (2-5 ml) as needed. It works as a homemade cough medicine. It can thin the secretions and loosen the cough. If you don't have any honey, you can use corn syrup.
  • AGE 6 years and older: Use COUGH DROPS to decrease the tickle in the throat. If you don't have any, you can use hard candy.
Non-Prescription Cough Medicine (DM):
  • Don't give cough suppressant medicines (such as those with dextromethorphan) to children with pneumonia.
  • Reason: We want children to cough up secretions. Coughing helps protect the lungs by clearing out germs.
  • Also, OTC cough medicines aren't approved by the FDA for children under 4 years old.
Coughing Fits or Spells:
  • Breathe warm mist (such as with shower running in a closed bathroom).
  • Give warm clear fluids to drink. Examples are apple juice and lemonade.
  • Reason: Both relax the airway and loosen up any phlegm.
Fluids:
  • Try to get your child to drink lots of fluids.
  • Goal: Keep your child well hydrated.
  • It loosens up any phlegm in the lungs. Then it's easier to cough up.
  • It also will thin out the mucus discharge from the nose.
Humidifier:
  • If the air in your home is dry, use a humidifier. Reason: Dry air makes coughs worse.
Fever:
  • For fevers above 102° F (39° C), give acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) or ibuprofen. See Dose Table. Note: Lower fevers are important for fighting infections.
  • For ALL fevers: Keep your child well hydrated. Give lots of cold fluids.
Avoid Tobacco Smoke:
  • Tobacco smoke makes coughs much worse.
What to Expect:
  • Fever usually goes away in 3 days.
  • Recovery is gradual and may take 2 to 4 weeks.
  • Recovery will be complete.
Return to School:
  • Your child can go back to school after the fever is gone.
  • Your child should also feel well enough to join in normal activities.
  • Most children who are exposed to viral pneumonia just get cold symptoms. A few may get pneumonia.

Author: Barton Schmitt MD, FAAP
Copyright 2000-2020 Schmitt Pediatric Guidelines LLC
Disclaimer: This health information is for educational purposes only. You the reader assume full responsibility for how you choose to use it.
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