Special Health Report: Your Kid's Cough

Is It Pneumonia?

If your child's been battling a cold or the flu for days — and his cough just isn't getting any better — he could have pneumonia. Here's what you need to know about this scary illness.

It's very common. About 4% of children under age 5 get pneumonia each year, and it's a common reason kids are hospitalized.

It sometimes follows another illness. Most of the time, a child's body can successfully fight off a cold or the flu. But in the case of pneumonia, the virus — or in some cases, bacteria — has managed to make its way into the lungs. Once there, the germs inflame the lung tissue and cause the air sacs to fill up with fluid and pus, making it more difficult for oxygen to get into the bloodstream.

Symptoms are similar to those of a cold. Look out for a lingering cough, fever, chills, wheezing, and labored or rapid breathing. In addition, watch to see if your child's nostrils flare — or if the skin between his ribs caves in — when he breathes. If you suspect your child has pneumonia, contact your doctor immediately.

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