Health Tools & Information

Pneumonia - children - discharge

What happened in the hospital

Your child has pneumonia, which is an infection in the lungs. In the hospital, the doctors and nurses helped your child breathe better. They also gave your child medicine to help get rid of the germs that cause pneumonia. They also made sure your child got enough liquids.

What to expect at home

Your child will probably still have some symptoms of pneumonia after leaving the hospital.

  • Coughing will slowly get better over 7 to 14 days.
  • Sleeping and eating may take up to a week to return to normal.
  • You may need to take time off work to care for your child.

Home care

Breathing warm, moist (wet) air helps loosen the sticky mucus that may be choking your child. Other things that may help include:

  • Placing a warm, wet washcloth loosely over your child's nose and mouth.
  • Filling a humidifier with warm water and having your child breathe in the warm mist

Do not use steam vaporizers because they can cause burns.

To bring up mucus from the lungs, tap your child's chest gently a few times a day. This can be done as your child is lying down.

Make sure everyone washes their hands with warm water and soap or an alcohol-based hand cleanser before they touch your child. Try to keep other children away from your child.

Do not allow anyone to smoke in the house, the car, or anywhere near your child.

Ask your child's doctor about shots to prevent other infections, such as:

  • Flu shot
  • Pneumonia vaccine

Also, make sure your child's vaccines are up to date.

Eating and drinking

Make sure your child drinks enough.

  • Offer breast milk or formula if your child is younger than 12 months.
  • Offer whole milk if your child is older than 12 months.

Some drinks may help relax the airway and loosen the mucus, such as:

  • Warm tea
  • Lemonade
  • Apple juice
  • Chicken broth for children over age 1

Eating or drinking may make your child tired. Offer small amounts, but more often than usual.

If your child throws up because of coughing, wait a few minutes and try to feed your child again.

Medicines

Antibiotics help most children with pneumonia get better.

  • Your doctor may tell you to give antibiotics to your child.
  • Do not miss any doses.
  • Have your child finish all the medicine, even if your child starts to feel better.

Do not give your child cough or cold medicines unless your doctor says it is OK. Your child's coughing helps get rid of mucus from the lungs.

Your doctor or nurse will tell you if it is OK to use acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) for fever or pain. If these medicines are OK to use, your doctor or nurse will tell you how often to give them to your child.

When to call the doctor

Call your child's doctor or nurse if your child has any of the following:

  • Hard time breathing
  • Chest muscles are pulling in with each breath
  • Breathing faster than 50 to 60 breaths per minute (when not crying)
  • Making a grunting noise
  • Sitting with shoulders hunched over
  • Skin, nails, gums, or lips are a blue or gray color
  • The area around your child's eyes is a blue or gray color
  • Very tired or fatigued
  • Not moving around much
  • Has a limp or floppy body
  • Nostrils are flaring out when breathing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Irritable
  • Has trouble sleeping

References

Bradley JS, Byington CL, Shah SS, et al. The management of community-acquired pneumonia in infants and children older than 3 months of age: clinical practice guidelines by the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society and the Infectious Diseases Society of America. Clin Infect Dis. 2011;53:e25-e76.

Ranganathan SC, Sonnappa S. Pneumonia and other respiratory infections. Pediatr Clin N Am. 2009;56:135-156.

Sandora TJ, Sectish TC. Community-acquired pneumonia. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St. Geme JW III, et al., eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 392.


Review Date: 5/12/2014
Reviewed By: Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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