Pneumonia: How We Treat

How is pneumonia treated?

Pneumonia is addressed in the Breathing Institute

In most cases, children with bacterial pneumonia are given oral antibiotics and are able to stay home to rest and recover. The type of antibiotic used depends on the type of pneumonia. In some cases, other members of the household might be treated with medication to prevent illness.

Pneumonia due to flu virus can be treated with anti-viral medications within the first 2 or 3 days of symptoms. For other viruses that cause pneumonia, there are no medications. In these cases, supportive measures like keeping your child hydrated, controlling any fever, and treating wheezing or oxygen need  are used until the body can overcome the infection by itself.

If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, give the medicine on schedule for as long as directed. This will help your child recover faster and will decrease the chance that infection will spread to other household members. For wheezing, a doctor might recommend using a nebulizer or inhaler.

Ask your doctor before you use non-prescribed medicine to treat your child's cough because cough suppressants stop the lungs from clearing mucus, which may not be helpful in pneumonia. Over-the-counter cough and cold medications are not recommended for kids under 6 years old. Take your child's temperature at least once each morning and each evening, and call the doctor if it goes above 102ºF (38.9ºC) in an older infant or child or above 100.4ºF (38ºC) in an infant under 6 months of age. Check your child's lips and fingernails to make sure that they are rosy and pink, not bluish or gray, which is a sign that the lungs are not getting enough oxygen.

Children may be hospitalized for treatment if they have pneumonia if:

  • They need supplemental oxygen
  • They have lung infections that may have spread to the bloodstream
  • They have chronic illnesses that affect the immune system
  • They are vomiting so much that they cannot take medicine by mouth or are dehydrated

How can pneumonia be prevented?

Some types of pneumonia can be prevented by vaccines. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants and children receive routine immunizations against Streptococcus pneumoniae and Haemophilus influenza, which are the two most common bacterial causes of pneumonia. Children should be vaccinated against pertussis, also called  whooping cough, beginning at 2 months of age. 

Yearly influenza virus vaccines are also recommended for the prevention of pneumonia. Children with chronic respiratory diseases may also receive an additional immunization against Streptococcus pneumoniae in order to further prevent pneumonia. Antiviral medication is now available, and can be used to treat some types of viral pneumonia or to make symptoms less severe.

Why choose Children’s Hospital Colorado for your child’s pneumonia?

Children's Hospital Colorado Breathing Institute's mission is to provide comprehensive clinical care and consultation for children with common and complex breathing problems. Our experts and facilities are prepared to diagnose and treat children with pneumonia. Our multidisciplinary approach means we will communicate about treatments with your child’s primary care physician and any other specialists your child may need.

As a regional care center, the Breathing Institute provides professional education and advancement of knowledge through research. Our doctors are responsible for discoveries in pulmonary medicine , including the first use of inhaled nitric oxide (iNO) to treat a premature infant with respiratory failure.

The latest in diagnostic testing is available for both infants and older children, and an experienced staff of pediatric specialists to include physicians, nurses, dietitians, social workers and respiratory therapists allows families to benefit from the team approach to treating breathing disorders. Our collaborative approach to breathing and lung care incorporates and encourages family involvement.