IS PNEUMONIA IN CHILDREN CONTAGIOUS?

Pneumonia is inflammation of the lungs which can be caused by infective organisms such as viruses, bacteria or fungi. There are also non infective causes of pneumonia caused by smoke inhalation, toxic fumes, gasteroesophageal reflux or foreign bodies.

The most common causes are due to viral infections such as adeno virus, respiratory syncitial virus or parvo virus. Childhood diseases such as chicken pox, measles or rubella can also present with pneumonia.Common bacteria that cause pneumonia are the pneumococcus, streptococcus, staphylococcus and Haemophilus.

Children with recurrent pneumonia should have their immune system and lung anatomy evaluated by a doctor to ensure they have no other underlying diseases that make them prone to pneumonia.

SYMPTOMS OF PNEUMONIA

It usually begins with symptoms of an upper respiratory tract infection such as high fever with cough and a runny nose. As the child falls sicker his breathing may become more rapid and laboured, he may have a wheeze, flaring of the nostrils and retractions of his intercostal muscles between his ribs. His feeding may slow down and he may not be as active as usual.

Some children can also start vomiting as a result of coughing and this can lead to dehydration. In severe pneumonia the child can have bluish discolouration of his lips and fingers which denotes poor oxygenation and this a serious sign.

DIAGNOSIS OF PNEUMONIA

Diagnosis is made after taking the history and physical examination and further tests like blood counts, chest X-Ray will confirm the diagnosis.

TREATMENT OF PNEUMONIA

Those with severe infection or those who are dehydrated only need to be admitted. The treatment would depend on the cause of the infection. If it is caused by bacteria, then a course of antibiotics will be started for a duration of five to seven days. This can be given orally if the child can tolerate orally but if the child is vomiting, this can be administered via the intravenous line. Hydration is of utmost importance and should the child be dehydrated this can be corrected with intravenous fluids. Nebulisation of brochodilating agents and physiotherapy will help clear any lung congestion and ease breathing. Sometimes supplementing the child with oxygen can also help improve his breathing. It is not advisable to use cough suppressants as this will suppress the cough reflex which is necessary to expel the secretions.

IS PNEUMONIA CONTAGIOUS?

Yes pneumonia is an airborne disease therefore it can be contagious. Contacts within the house hold and nursery need to take precaution as this can spread through secretions of the upper respiratory tract.Most pneumonias if mild lasts from a few days to a week. Most children recover within a week but may have a lingering cough.

PREVENTION

A good start to a healthy child is to breastfeed your baby from birth as this will offer some form of protection from the maternal antibodies.

Vaccination can help prevent pneumonia caused by pneumococcus, haemophilus measles rubella and flu viruses. Avoidance from smoke and fumes will prevent your child from getting non infective pneumonias. Make sure your child has a healthy diet and lifestyle so that he is not more prone to infections.