Pneumocystis pneumonia (PCP) is an infection caused by Pneumocystis jiroveci, a microscopic fungus that lives in the lungs of many people.
PCP is one of the most common pediatric illnesses associated with AIDS, especially in babies younger than 6 months old. Its prevention is very important in AIDS care since it is a leading cause of death in people with AIDS.
In kids who are already seriously ill, symptoms of this form of PCP begin suddenly with a fever, a cough, and difficulty breathing. A child may not cough up any mucus because it is usually too thick to come up with the cough. Other symptoms can include weight loss and night sweats.
Babies who are already sick or have a weakened immune system also can develop PCP. In most cases, the baby is 3 to 6 months old and has no fever, but gradually begins to breathe faster than normal. As the lung infection gets worse, breathing becomes more difficult, and the baby's chest muscles may begin to retract (pull in abnormally) with each breath. The child's lips, fingernails, and skin also may turn blue or gray.
Doctors sometimes can diagnose pneumocystis pneumonia through an X-ray. Or they may suspect it in patients with a fever, cough, and difficulty breathing who also have very low oxygen levels in their bloodstream. This is confirmed by finding the fungus in lung fluid samples sent to a laboratory for testing.
Even if your child has no other medical problems, call your doctor immediately if your child has unusually fast breathing or difficulty breathing, is coughing, or has a blue or gray color to the nails, lips, or skin.
Early treatment is key because PCP is a potentially life-threatening infection. Antibiotics, either alone or in special combinations, are usually used to treat it. These may be given by mouth or intravenously (into a vein) for at least 2 weeks. If a child has AIDS, antibiotic treatment will probably last about 3 weeks. Depending on the severity of the PCP infection, the doctor may add a steroid medicine.
If your child has any condition that severely weakens the immune system, talk to your doctor about whether your child should take antibiotics to prevent pneumocystis infection.
Infants born to HIV-infected mothers should begin treatment to prevent PCP at 1 month of age until it's known for sure whether they have the HIV infection.
Because of the seriousness of this infection, most kids who have symptoms of pneumocystis infection are treated in the hospital. Some of the different antibiotics that may be used to treat it can have side effects, which are easier to watch for and manage in a hospital.
Reviewed by: Yamini Durani, MD
Date reviewed: January 2015
|National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) The NHLBI provides the public with educational resources relating to the treatment of heart, blood vessel, lung, and blood diseases as well as sleep disorders.|
|Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) The CDC (the national public health institute of the United States) promotes health and quality of life by preventing and controlling disease, injury, and disability.|
|American Lung Association The mission of this group is to prevent lung disease and promote lung health. Contact the group at: American Lung Association|
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|American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) This nonprofit organization is dedicated to the support of AIDS research, prevention, treatment education, and advocacy.|
|X-Ray Exam: Chest A chest X-ray is a safe and painless test that uses a small amount of radiation to take a picture of a person's chest, including the heart, lungs, diaphragm, lymph nodes, upper spine, ribs, collarbone, and breastbone.|
|Cancer Center From treatments and prevention to coping with the emotional aspects of cancer, the Cancer Center provides comprehensive information that parents need.|
|HIV and AIDS Parents can help prevent HIV/AIDS by learning the facts and talking with their kids regularly about healthy behaviors, feelings, and sexuality.|
|Fever and Taking Your Child's Temperature Although it can be frightening when your child's temperature rises, fever itself causes no harm and can actually be a good thing - it's often the body's way of fighting infections.|
|Pneumonia Pneumonia is a lung infection that can be caused by different types of germs, most commonly viruses. Read about the various types of pneumonia.|
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