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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.