Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs. Most cases of pneumonia are caused by viruses, but pneumonia can also be caused by bacteria, fungi and parasites. Pneumonia affects people of all ages and can be mild to severe depending on the type of infection, a person’s age, general state of health and underlying medical conditions. The good news is that most pneumonia can be treated.

Symptoms vary depending on the age of the child and the cause of the pneumonia, but common ones include:

With treatment, most types of bacterial pneumonia can be cured within one to two weeks while viral pneumonia may take longer.

The viruses and bacteria that cause pneumonia are contagious, but the disease itself is not. Many people exposed to the same viruses will develop common cold symptoms. The illness spreads when an infected person sprays droplets from his mouth or nose by coughing or sneezing into the air, by sharing drinking glasses, silverware or plates or when someone touches or handles the used tissues of an infected person.

Certain risk factors make some children more likely to get pneumonia. Kids with a weakened immune system, like premature and young infants, children with immunodeficiencies, and those with chronic medical conditions like asthma and diabetes are more likely to develop pneumonia. Adolescents who smoke and children exposed to secondhand smoke have an increased risk of developing pneumonia.

If you suspect your child has pneumonia, take him to the doctor. Your pediatrician may be able to diagnose pneumonia after physically examining your child and listening to his lungs. Other tests like chest X-rays, blood tests and bacterial cultures of mucus may help with diagnosis.

Usually pneumonia can be treated at home with oral antibiotics. Be sure to follow your doctor’s directions and give your child his medication on schedule and for as long as prescribed. If your child has severe wheezing or has asthma, your doctor may recommend a nebulizer and an inhaler. Cough suppressants aren’t recommended for children with pneumonia because they stop the productive cough that often helps clear mucus from the lungs.

Call your doctor or seek medical care immediately if your child is not able to take fluids by mouth and keep them down, if his skin color is pale or blue, or if he is having trouble breathing.

Children who have a form of pneumonia that causes high fevers and respiratory distress may need to be hospitalized. Other symptoms/conditions that may require hospitalization include:

According to the Centers for Disease Control, some types of pneumonia can be prevented by vaccines. These vaccines include:

Other ways to prevent the spread of respiratory infections which can lead to pneumonia include regular hand washing, cleaning doorknobs, faucet handles and counters with a bleach-based disinfectant, covering your mouth with your elbow or a tissue when coughing or sneezing and limiting exposure to secondhand smoke.

Bronchiolitis Spread via respiratory droplets through sneezing or coughing  2 to 10 days  Onset of cough until 7 to 10 days 
Chickenpox (Varicella) Airborne or via skin contact with lesions  10 to 21 days  2 days before rash appears until all sores have crusted 
Colds Spread via respiratory droplets or direct contact with infected person or object  2 to 4 days  Onset of runny nose until fever is gone

Croup (viral) Spread via respiratory droplets or contact with infected person or object  2 to 6 days  Onset of cough until fever is gone
Diarrhea Contact with feces  Depends on causative agent (bacterial 1 to 7 days; viral 1 to 4 days)  Depends on causative agent; usually until stools are formed. (See specific agents)
Fifth Disease (Parvo virus) Spread via respiratory droplets  Usually 4 to 14 days, but can be as long as 21 days  7 days before rash until rash begins 
Hand-foot-mouth (Coxsackie) Spread via respiratory droplets, fecal/oral contact or fluid from blisters  3 to 6 days  Onset of mouth ulcers until fever is gone (respiratory tract shedding usually 1 week; fecal can be several weeks)
Hepatitis A Fecal contact  15 to 50 days  1 to 2 weeks before jaundice begins until 1 week after onset of jaundice
Hepatitis B Contact with infected blood/body fluids  45 to 160 days  Indefinite period. If Hepatitis e antigen is positive, at risk for transmission 
Herpes Simplex Oral/genital skin contact  2 days to 2 weeks  Initial infection: 1 week to several weeks (oral/genital). Recurrent infection: 3 to 4 days
Impetigo Direct skin contact with lesion and contact with infected objects  7 to 10 days  Onset of sores until 1 day on antibiotics
Influenza Spread via respiratory droplets or contact with infected person or object  1 to 4 days  24 hours before onset of symptoms until fever is gone, about 7 days
Lice Spread via contact with skin or hair  10 to 14 days  Onset of itch until 24 hours after first treatment
Meningococcus Spread via respiratory droplets  1 to 10 days  7 days before symptoms to 24 hours after treatment begins
Mononucleosis Contact with infected saliva  30 to 50 days  Undetermined, but usually 6 weeks
MRSA Spread via contact with infected person, person who is a carrier of the disease, or contaminated surface.  One to 10 days  Varies depending on whether infection is active and if person is seeking treatment 
Pertussis (whooping cough) Spread via respiratory droplets  Five to 21 days  Two weeks after onset of cough or until five days on antibiotics
Pink-eye or Conjunctivitis (bacterial) Spread via contact with eye drainage
2 to 7 days  Onset of pus until symptoms have resolved
Rotavirus Direct or indirect contact with infected people  2 to 4 days  Before onset of diarrhea until 10 to 12 days after onset
Salmonella, Shigella, Campylobacter Fecal contact  Salmonella - 12 to 36 hours
Shigella & Campylobacter - 1 to 7 days 
Contagious until diarrhea is resolved; sometimes with prolonged excretions with salmonella
Scabies Contact with clothing, bedding or skin of infected animal or person  4 to 6 weeks (previous exposure 1 to 4 days)  Onset of itch until one treatment completed
Scarlet fever Spread via airborne respiratory droplets and direct contact  1 to 2 days  Onset of fever or rash until 1 day on antibiotics
Sore throat (viral) Spread via respiratory droplets  2 to 5 days  Onset of sore throat until fever is gone 
Strep throat Spread via respiratory droplets  2 to 5 days  Onset of sore throat until 1 day on antibiotics 

2006 Red Book, Report of the Committee on Infectious Disease, American Academy of Pediatrics

Airborne - droplets nuclei that remain suspended in the air for long periods
Respiratory droplets - droplets propelled for a short distance, such as talking, sneezing, coughing, etc.

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