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What are the Symptoms of Pneumonia in Toddlers?

A. Pasbjerg
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Pneumonia in toddlers is typically caused by viral or bacterial infection, and though the symptoms are often similar for both forms, the symptoms a child exhibits can present very differently depending on which type he or she has. Both forms generally cause a fever, but a bacterial pneumonia's fever often comes on more rapidly and is higher than with viral pneumonia. Breathing problems typically accompany both types, though in cases of viral infection the issue usually develops slowly from initial cold-like symptoms. Vomiting, diarrhea, or lack of appetite can occur with both types. Some other possible symptoms include weakness, rapid pulse, or signs of oxygen deprivation.

Fever is a very common symptom of pneumonia in toddlers. They may also have body aches or chills along with the raised temperature. In cases of viral infection, the fever is typically moderate to high and rises relatively slowly. With bacterial pneumonia, which is generally considered the more serious form, the onset of the fever is rapid and it gets very high in a short period of time.

A variety of breathing problems typically affect toddlers with pneumonia. Children usually develop a cough, and will often expel mucous while they are coughing. They may also start wheezing, particularly while sleeping. They can have difficulty breathing; in severe cases, the nostrils may flare or the chest may sink in as the child struggles to take a breath. Some toddlers may complain of chest pain as well. Again, with bacterial types, these symptoms come on quickly, while with viruses they may start off fairly mild, resembling a common cold or the flu, then grow steadily worse over time.

In addition to respiratory problems, pneumonia in toddlers can also affect the digestive system. Both viral and bacterial infections can lead to stomach upset, vomiting, and diarrhea. Some children may lose their appetites and refuse to eat, particularly with bacterial pneumonia where they become very ill very quickly.

Several other symptoms may also indicate the presence of pneumonia in toddlers. A fever, repeated bouts of coughing, and difficulty breathing can all make a child weak or lethargic. This is common to both viral and bacterial infections. In more severe bacterial cases, children with pneumonia may have an accelerated pulse rate. For those having trouble getting enough oxygen, the lips or skin under the fingernails may appear bluish; again, this is more common with bacterial infections.

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A. Pasbjerg
By A. Pasbjerg
Andrea Pasbjerg, a The Health Board contributor, holds an MBA from West Chester University of Pennsylvania. Her business background helps her to create content that is both informative and practical, providing readers with valuable insights and strategies for success in the business world.
Discussion Comments
By ysmina — On Dec 31, 2014

@ZipLine-- I don't there is any way of knowing for sure without an examination and possibly an x-ray. Cough, fever and difficulty breathing are the most common symptoms of pneumonia in toddlers.

If your daughter is not experiencing difficulty breathing at all, then it's probably not pneumonia. Difficulty breathing can show itself as rapid breathing or labored breathing and it usually becomes constant when it's pneumonia. If she's breathing just fine, I'm sure she'll be okay until tomorrow to see the doctor.

If she does have issues breathing and if you see her lips getting blue, you do need to go to the emergency room. I'm not a doctor though, so please call your doctor and ask for advice regardless. It is better to be safe than sorry.

By ZipLine — On Dec 30, 2014

My toddler has been coughing for a few days now and has a slight fever. Normally I would think that this is just a virus but there was another child in his school recently that had pneumonia. I wasn't even aware that pneumonia is infectious but now that I know, I'm worried. Should I take my daughter to the ER or wait to see the doctor tomorrow?

Is there any way that I can be sure that my child does or does not have pneumonia at this point?

By candyquilt — On Dec 30, 2014

I'm not sure which type of pneumonia is worse. Bacterial pneumonia is generally more serious and develops very quickly as the article said. But bacterial pneumonia can be treated with antibiotics, whereas I'm not sure what viral pneumonia is treated with. I don't think that antibiotics can be used for viruses because they only work for bacteria.

I think young children also get pneumonia symptoms far more seriously than adults do. Which makes it all the more important that they're diagnosed and treated quickly.

A. Pasbjerg
A. Pasbjerg
Andrea Pasbjerg, a The Health Board contributor, holds an MBA from West Chester University of Pennsylvania. Her business background helps her to create content that is both informative and practical, providing readers with valuable insights and strategies for success in the business world.
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