Pneumonia is a general term that refers to an infection of the lungs, which can be caused by a variety of microorganisms, including viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites.

Most cases of pneumonia are caused by viruses, includingadenoviruses, rhinovirus, influenza virus (flu), respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and parainfluenza virus (which causes croup).

Often, pneumonia begins after an upper respiratory tract infection (an infection of the nose and throat), with symptoms of pneumonia beginning after 2 or 3 days of a cold or sore throat.

Signs and Symptoms

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

  • fever
  • chills
  • cough
  • nasal congestion
  • unusually rapid breathing (in some cases, this is the only symptom)
  • breathing with grunting or wheezing sounds
  • labored breathing that makes the rib muscles retract (when muscles under the ribcage or between ribs draw inward with each breath) and causes nasal flaring
  • vomiting
  • chest pain
  • abdominal pain
  • decreased activity
  • loss of appetite (in older kids) or poor feeding (in infants), which may lead to dehydration
  • in extreme cases, bluish or gray color of the lips and fingernails