You Thought You 'Pneu' Pneumonia

09 January 2020

Article by: Dr Norzila, Respiratory Paediatrician

You Thought You 'Pneu' Pneumonia


What Is Pneumonia?

Pneumonia is an infection that fills the lungs with fluid/pus, causing cough with phlegm/pus, fever, chills and difficulty in breathing. It is mainly caused by viruses, bacteria, or fungi. Depending on the severity, pneumonia can be life-threatening.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), pneumonia kills approximately 1.4 million children under the age of 5 every year.


What are the Symptoms?

Mild symptoms of pneumonia are often similar to those of a cold, but they last for a longer duration. The symptoms may include:

  • Coughing which may produce phlegm
  • Fever, sweating and shaking chills
  • Fatigue
  • Chest pain when you breathe or cough
  • Rapid breathing or irregular breathing
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Confusion (in adults age 65 and above)
  • Lower than normal body temperature (in adults age 65 and above and people with weak immune systems)

It is important to note that new-borns and infants may not show any symptoms.

How is Pneumonia Treated?

Pneumonia treatment varies depending on the severity of the symptoms. Treatment will often be more supportive i.e. treating the fever, monitoring and checking the oxygen, etc. Mild symptoms will at least receive a short course of antibiotics lasting 3 – 5 days.

If the symptoms are moderate or severe, the patient will be hospitalised. Should the symptoms be severe, the patient will be admitted into an Intensive Care Unit whereby a ventilator is required for respiratory support alongside antibiotics and additional supportive care.

You Thought You 'Pneu' Pneumonia

Dr Norzila Mohamed Zainudin, Respiratory Paediatrician

Is There Anything I Can Do?

Alongside taking your child to see a doctor for a proper diagnosis, there are some measures and lifestyle adjustments you can do to minimise the risk of your child contracting pneumonia:

  • Get your children vaccinated
  • Avoid exposing your children to overcrowded areas
  • Avoid environments saturated with air pollution, tobacco and/or nicotine
  • Should your children be attending a nursery, ensure that their surroundings are healthy. Anyone who has contracted a viral infection and attends the nursery risks exposing every child in that nursery to viruses.


My Child Has Been Treated for Pneumonia Four Times Now, But They’ve Gotten It Again! What is Going On?

Your child may have recurrent pneumonia - a condition whereby the person affected is prone to contracting pneumonia on recurring accounts. There are several causes of recurrent pneumonia:

  • Structural problems between the breathing tube (bronchus) and the feeding tube (oesophagus)
    This is called a trachea-oesophageal fistula: it causes fluids to get into a child’s lungs when the child is drinking, resulting in an infection.
  • Gastro-oesophageal reflux
    It is possible for young infants to experience gastro-oesophageal reflux - a situation where the milk moves back up the feeding tube, ending up in the lungs and infecting them.
  • Immunodeficiency
    Some children have jeopardised immune system, exposing them to frequent, recurring infections as their bodies’ ability to fight organisms off are weak or even non-existent. Any child who may have recurrent pneumonia must be investigated to prevent lung damage.


Pneumonia is a serious disease that affects many children around the world. It requires a medical professional’s diagnosis and cannot be treated with over-the-counter medicine.

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Tags: respiratory