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How to Identify Pneumonia in Newborns

Pneumonia is an infection of the lung which is caused by a virus or bacteria. The occurrence of pneumonia can be sudden, within a day or two or it may build over a period of several days. Vaccinating the baby is the most effective way of keeping it safe from pneumonia.

Pneumonia causes 6% to 9% of stillborn and newborn deaths every year. The occurrence of pneumonia can be sudden, within a day or two or it may build over a period of several days.

Depending on the manifestation, pneumonia is of two types; viral pneumonia and bacterial pneumonia. Bacterial pneumonia occurs with a sudden onset of symptoms whereas a viral pneumonia starts with a minor cold and slowly worsens with time.

Pneumonia Symptoms

The main symptoms of pneumonia are prolonged fever and cough. However, the occurrence of the following symptoms in the baby may also point towards a possible pneumonia infection.

  • If the baby loses appetite
  • If the baby coughs up mucus
  • Fever up to 101.5 degrees or more in the case of a viral pneumonia and 103 degrees in the case of a bacterial pneumonia
  • Rapid breathing
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Dehydration
  • Bluish-grey lips and nails

The parents need to stay alert for the timely notice of any of these symptoms. If the baby has been having any trouble in breathing or feeding, the pediatrician is to be consulted immediately.

Diagnosis

The pediatrician may suggest an X-ray of the baby’s chest to assess the degree of damage to the lungs. Checking the breathing rate, the heart rate and conducting blood/mucus tests helps in diagnosing pneumonia. It also helps in finding out whether the pneumonia is viral or bacterial.

Treating pneumonia

Treatment of pneumonia depends on the type of manifestation, severity of the illness and the age of the baby. The baby’s immune system is equipped to fight a viral pneumonia on its own. However, the pediatrician will administer antibiotics to a child having bacterial pneumonia.

In case the pneumonia is severe, the baby may be required to be hospitalized. At the hospital, the baby will be administered oxygen along with antibiotics and plenty of fluids. Adequate rest is to be ensured to a baby diagnosed with pneumonia. The baby should also be encouraged to consume a lot of fluids to tackle dehydration.

Preventing Pneumonia

Vaccinating the baby is the easiest and the most effective way of keeping it safe from a pneumonia infection. The pneumococcal, meningococcal, HiB and DTP vaccines all prevent diseases that may lead to pneumonia.

Pneumonia can also be prevented by ensuring the following measures:

  • Hygiene – It is best to ensure hygienic conditions in the baby’s immediate surroundings. The baby’s toys should be clean and disinfected regularly. The baby’s hands and the hands of the people handling the baby should be washed frequently with soap or a disinfectant.
  • Cigarette smoke – Keep the baby from coming in contact with cigarette smoke. If any of the parents or guests smoke, ensure they do so outside the house.
  • Ensure proper nourishment to the child.
  • Take extra care of pre-mature babies. Pre-term babies have a weaker immune system and are thus more prone to infections.

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