Pneumonia in children

Treatment for pneumonia in children

Antibiotics

If it is caused by bacteria, your child will be given antibiotic tablets or liquid. They will usually improve a lot within the first 48 hours – but they’ll probably continue to cough for longer. It’s important to finish the whole course of antibiotics, even if your child seems better.

If it is caused by a virus then antibiotics won’t work. It will usually take them 2-4 weeks to recover.

Your doctor may treat with antibiotics, which are only effective for bacterial pneumonia, as the cause can be difficult to establish.

Looking after your child at home

Many children with pneumonia can be looked after at home.

  • Make sure they get a lot of rest.
  • Your child may not want to eat but it is important to make sure they stay hydrated. Give them small amounts to drink regularly.
  • If your child is still in nappies you will be able to tell if they are getting enough to drink because they will still get wet nappies.
  • If your child has chest or tummy ache you can give them pain relief like paracetamol or ibuprofen made for infants or children.
  • Cough medicines don’t help with pneumonia.
  • Don’t smoke around your child or let them breathe in other people’s smoke.
  • A high temperature can be scary but it is a natural response to infection. Don’t try and reduce your child’s fever by sponging them with water.

Your doctor should give you more information about the best way to look after your child at home. If your child’s symptoms get worse, go back to your doctor.

Will my child need to go to hospital?

Your doctor will assess if your child should be looked after in hospital based on their symptoms and other factors, including their age. Babies under 6 months old are more likely to be admitted to hospital.

Your doctor will take into account if your child:

  • has difficulty breathing
  • is dehydrated because they won’t feed or drink
  • can’t take antibiotics through their mouth
  • is breathing very fast
  • has low oxygen levels in their blood
  • has another lung, heart or immune deficiency condition

In hospital your child may be given antibiotics through a drip. If they need it, they may be given oxygen to help them breathe more easily. If they’re dehydrated, they may also be given fluids through a drip.

Last medically reviewed: September 2016. Due for review: September 2019

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.