The treatment for pneumonia will depend on whether it is caused by bacteria or a virus. Many children can be cared for at home, but some may need to be treated in hospital.

Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs that can be caused by viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites. Pneumonia is a secondary illness that develops because the viral or bacterial illness was there first.

Often pneumonia begins after a cold, with symptoms beginning after 2 or 3 days of a cold or sore throat.

Signs and symptoms
Fast, difficult breathingSevere, shaking chillsMuscle aches
CoughChest painsLoss of appetite
FeverTiredness, weaknessNausea or vomiting


The health provider can usually diagnose pneumonia based on the time of year and the child’s symptoms by watching the child’s breathing and by listening to the lungs. To check for bacterial pneumonia, a chest X-ray, blood and other tests may be done.

Treatment of Pneumonia

Pneumonia caused by bacteria is treated with an antibiotic. Symptoms should improve within 12 to 36 hours after starting the medicine.

It is important to take the full course of antibiotic as prescribed. Stopping the medicine early may cause the infection to come back. It may also make the medicine not work as well for your child in the future.

Pneumonia caused by a virus cannot be treated with antibiotics. Viral pneumonia usually goes away on its own.

Things That You Can Do to Help Your Child at Home Are

  • Control the fever with the proper medicine and right strength for the age of your child. Fevers lower than 101° F do not need to be treated unless the child is uncomfortable
  • Give your child plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.
  • See that your child gets lots of rest.
  • Do not give over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicines or other OTC medicines without asking the health provider first. The child needs to cough and bring up the phlegm. Coughing is the body’s way of clearing the infection from the lungs.
  • Avoid exposing your child to tobacco smoke or other irritants in the air.
  • Keep vaccinations up-to-date. All children, starting at 2 months, should begin a series of vaccines that prevents the bacterial type of pneumonia.
  • All children 6 months of age or older should get a flu vaccine yearly even if they have an egg allergy.
  • Teach children to cover their noses and mouths with facial tissue or a sleeve of their shirt when sneezing or Throw away tissues after use.
  • Teach and practice good hand washing
  • Wash surfaces that are touched often (like toys, tables and doorknobs) with soap and water or wipe them down with a disinfectant.
  • Keep the home smoke free.

If your child has a weakened immune system or is at high risk because of a chronic condition of the lungs, heart, or kidneys, ask the child’s health provider if other vaccines are needed.

When to Call the Doctor

You should call your child’s doctor if your child:

  • Has trouble breathing or is breathing much faster than usual
  • Has a bluish or gray color to the fingernails or lips
  • Is older than 6 months and has a fever over 102°F
  • Is younger than 6 months and has a temperature over 100.4°F.
  • Has a fever for more than a few days after taking antibiotics