What to Do About Recurring Illnesses

Pneumonia

What's normal: Getting it once.

What's not: Two bouts in one year, or three or more during childhood.

Why your child may be vulnerable: Pneumonia -- an infection and inflammation of the air sacs in the lungs -- accounts for a whopping 13 percent of infections in kids under 2.

Recurring pneumonia could be a sign of an underlying illness such as asthma, gastroesophageal reflux, or even cystic fibrosis, neurological problems, or an immune deficiency, says Raj Padman, MD, chief of the division of pulmonology at the Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children.

Sometimes, the cause is just a tiny item -- a candy or a bead -- that has been accidentally breathed into the lungs and remains lodged there. (Canadian doctors recently reported on the case of a 2-1/2-year-old whose recurrent pneumonia was apparently caused by a tiny bit of greenery from a Christmas tree that he had inhaled into his lungs as a baby.) But about 10 percent of repeat pneumonia has no known cause, researchers say.

Advice for parents: Ask your pediatrician or a family doctor for a referral to a pediatric pulmonologist. This specialist can perform lung-function tests and lung scans to help detect and solve your child's problem.

Sari Harrar is a health writer in Quakertown, Pennsylvania, and the mother of one.

Originally published in American Baby magazine, March 2005.

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

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