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Pneumonia in children

Symptoms and diagnosis

The symptoms of pneumonia in children will vary depending on the age of the child and the cause of the infection. On this page, we have information on symptoms in babies, toddlers and older children, and how pneumonia is diagnosed. 

On this page: 

Symptoms of pneumonia in babies

In newborns and babies, symptoms can include:       

  • a temperature above 38C or 100.4F
  • difficulty breathing - they may grunt or move their head up and down with each breath. They may breathe loudly and make a wheezing sound. They may also look like they’re breathing with their tummies 
  • fast breathing
  • stopping breathing (apnoea)
  • a wet cough 
  • not feeding properly 
  • no wet nappies for 12 hours or more
  • difficulty sleeping 
  • blue skin inside the lips or under the tongue.

Symptoms of pneumonia in toddlers and older children

Toddlers and older children with pneumonia will have most of the same symptoms as babies. They may also have other symptoms, such as:   

  • complaining of chest or tummy pain 
  • vomiting 
  • refusing to eat or drink. 

Call 999 for urgent help if:

  • Your child’s breathing pauses for more than 20 seconds. This is really important for young or premature babies, as it might be the only symptom.
  • Your child has a fever and they are struggling to breathe. They may grunt or draw the muscles under their chest in when they breathe. This makes them look like they are breathing with their tummies.
  • The colour of your baby's skin inside the lips or under the tongue turns blue.

We have more information about when to visit your doctor and when to call 999.

How is pneumonia diagnosed in children?

Your child’s doctor will ask you questions and examine your child. They will:   

  • listen to their chest
  • take their temperature 
  • check for fast breathing or low oxygen levels
  • measure their heart rate 
  • measure their blood pressure.

Your child’s doctor may also consider arranging blood tests or a chest x-ray. 

Pneumonia can sometimes be difficult to diagnose. This is because it shares some symptoms with other conditions, like the common cold, bronchiolitis, and asthma.  

Next: Treatment and prevention

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Last medically reviewed: July 2022. Due for review: July 2025

This information uses the best available medical evidence and was produced with the support of people living with lung conditions. Find out how we produce our information. If you’d like to see our references get in touch.