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What is pneumonia?

Pneumonia (new-mohn-ya) is an infection in the lungs caused by a bacteria, virus, or fungus. It can also be caused by aspiration, which is when something gets into the lungs that shouldn’t be there (such as spit, food, vomit, or stomach acid). The infection can cause swelling and mucus to build up in the lungs, making it difficult to breathe. It is one of the most common infections of the lower respiratory tract in children. 

What are the signs of pneumonia?

  • cough
  • fever
  • trouble breathing
  • chest pain
  • stomachache or vomiting
  • eating poorly

How should I care for my child?

The provider may prescribe an antibiotic to fight the infection if it is due to bacteria. It is important to finish all of the medicine as prescribed. Even after your child has finished the antibiotic and is feeling better, their cough may continue for weeks. 

Encourage extra fluids. This will make the mucus thinner so it can be coughed up and out of the lungs. 

For fever, you may give acetaminophen (Tylenol® or another brand) or ibuprofen (Motrin® or another brand) as directed, or every 6 hours as needed. Do NOT give ibuprofen to babies under 6 months old. Do not give cough or cold medicine to children younger than 6 years old. If your child is older than 12 months, it is okay to give them one or two teaspoons of honey at night for the cough. 

Practice good hygiene to prevent the germs that cause pneumonia from spreading. This includes washing hands for 20 seconds with soap and water and teaching your child to cough or sneeze into a Kleenex or their elbow, not their hands. It also includes not sharing drinking glasses or eating utensils. 

When should I call the clinic?

Call your clinic if your child is: 

  • vomiting medicine. 
  • sleeping more than usual. 
  • refusing to drink. 
  • having fast or noisy breathing. 
  • still having fever 48 hours after starting an antibiotic if they are prescribed one. 

When should I go to the Emergency Room? 

Bring your child to the Emergency Room if they are: 

  • having retractions (pulling in of the skin around the neck or between the ribs with each breath), grunting, or flaring of their nostrils when breathing. 
  • blue or appears pale around the mouth. 
  • is pale, gray, white, or blue in their lips, gums, nailbeds, or the whites of their eyes.  


This sheet is not specific to your child, but provides general information. If you have any questions, please call the clinic.

rev. 2/2024

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This page is not specific to your child, but provides general information on the topic above. If you have any questions, please call your clinic. For more reading material about this and other health topics, please call or visit Children's Minnesota Family Resource Center library, or visit

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