What are the Signs of Pneumonia in Children?

Laura M. Sands

The symptoms of pneumonia in children vary according to what type of pneumonia a child has. Two of the main types of pneumonia common in children are viral and bacterial. With either of these, a child may experience symptoms such as fatigue, fever, chills, headache, coughing, pain in the stomach or chest, vomiting, diarrhea and a loss of appetite. Young children are often hospitalized after being diagnosed with pneumonia, but may still experience symptoms for weeks after being treated and discharged. Symptoms of pneumonia in children that may linger after hospitalization will gradually subside in the days and weeks after returning home.

A fever is a symptom of both bacterial and viral pneumonia.
A fever is a symptom of both bacterial and viral pneumonia.

Pneumonia in children tends to develop rapidly. In some, chills may be directly followed by a fever and a cough, which may seem dry and unproductive in the beginning, but will eventually begin to produce mucus from the lungs. In very rare, but serious cases, pneumonia in children may also cause a child to cough up bloody mucus, as well as experience a rapid heart rate and serious breathing difficulties.

A rapid heart rate and difficulty breathing may indicate pneumonia.
A rapid heart rate and difficulty breathing may indicate pneumonia.

Though mostly following cold and flu seasons, pneumonia in children can actually strike at any time of the year in children of any age. Statistically speaking, however, boys in the United States tend to contract pneumonia more often than girls do. Pneumonia in children often starts with flu symptoms before graduating into a lung infection.

Pneumonia in children tends to develop rapidly.
Pneumonia in children tends to develop rapidly.

Symptoms of pneumonia in babies may include a high fever, pale skin, rapid breathing, wheezing or otherwise labored breathing. A doctor’s visit is necessary to determine whether the origins of these pneumonia symptoms are of viral or bacterial variety. If symptoms are found to be viral, doctors often send a child home to recuperate while the virus runs its course. If pneumonia in children stems from a bacterial infection in the lungs, however, doctors will treat the infection with antibiotics. Sometimes children are hospitalized for such lung infections, which may take several weeks to heal.

Upon being discharged from the hospital, the signs of pneumonia in children may still be evident, but coughing should disappear within a week or two, as should the child’s eating habits slowly return to normal. While a child is recovering from infection, plenty of fluids should be given and antibiotics should be continued as directed by a physician. Children may still cough up mucus and an air humidifier may be recommended by a doctor to help loosen any remaining phlegm from the lungs.

Wheezing and labored breathing are signs of pneumonia in children.
Wheezing and labored breathing are signs of pneumonia in children.

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Discussion Comments


@alisha-- Yea, that's possible. Infections can occur during birth and infants are so gentle that they immediately develop pneumonia from respiratory infections.

It's actually good that it was caught early. I think nurses know what signs to look for because infants turn bluish and don't breathe as well as they should after birth.

Your sister and niece will probably be released within a week. They will give your niece antibiotics and keep her under watch until she's recovered.


Has anyone had their infant have pneumonia from birth? My sister just gave birth and she can't leave the hospital because my niece has pneumonia.


Pneumonia is a serious condition. Adults tend to recover faster, but children and the elderly don't recover as quickly. Also, kids don't know what medical symptoms mean and don't always express their pain.

My son had pneumonia last year from a bad cold. I could not have imagined that it would get so bad so quickly. I'm also upset that his pediatrician didn't give him antibiotics to begin with because he knew that it was a bacterial infection.

My son's pneumonia was treated only after two whole courses of antibiotics. Even after that, it took him several more weeks to feel completely better again. It was so heartbreaking for me. Now I'm extra cautious when he starts to cough and feels unwell.

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