Pneumonia in children - discharge
Your child has pneumonia, which is an infection in the lungs. Now that your child is going home, follow the health care provider's instructions on helping your child continue healing at home. Use the information below as a reminder.
When You're in the Hospital
In the hospital, the providers helped your child breathe better. They also gave your child medicine to help get rid of the germs that cause pneumonia. They also made sure your child got enough liquids.
What to Expect at Home
Your child will probably still have some symptoms of pneumonia after leaving the hospital.
- Coughing will slowly get better over 7 to 14 days.
- Sleeping and eating may take up to a week to return to normal.
- You may need to take time off work to care for your child.
Breathing warm, moist (wet) air helps loosen the sticky mucus that may be choking your child. Other things that may help include:
- Placing a warm, wet washcloth loosely near your child's nose and mouth
- Filling a humidifier with warm water and having your child breathe in the warm mist
DO NOT use steam vaporizers because they can cause burns.
To bring up mucus from the lungs, tap your child's chest gently a few times a day. This can be done as your child is lying down.
Make sure everyone washes their hands with warm water and soap or an alcohol-based hand cleanser before they touch your child. Try to keep other children away from your child.
DO NOT allow anyone to smoke in the house, the car, or anywhere near your child.
Ask your child's provider about vaccines to prevent other infections, such as:
Also, make sure all your child's vaccines are up to date.
Eating and Drinking
Make sure your child drinks enough.
- Offer breast milk or formula if your child is younger than 12 months.
- Offer whole milk if your child is older than 12 months.
Some drinks may help relax the airway and loosen the mucus, such as:
- Warm tea
- Apple juice
- Chicken broth for children over age 1
Eating or drinking may make your child tired. Offer small amounts, but more often than usual.
If your child throws up because of coughing, wait a few minutes and try to feed your child again.
Antibiotics help most children with pneumonia get better.
- Your doctor may tell you to give antibiotics to your child.
- DO NOT miss any doses.
- Have your child finish all the antibiotics, even if your child starts to feel better.
DO NOT give your child cough or cold medicines unless your doctor says it is OK. Your child's coughing helps get rid of mucus from the lungs.
Your provider will tell you if it is OK to use acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) for fever or pain. If these medicines are OK to use, your provider will tell you how often to give them to your child. Do not give aspirin to your child.
When to Call the Doctor
Call your child's provider if your child has any of the following:
- Hard time breathing
- Chest muscles are pulling in with each breath
- Breathing faster than 50 to 60 breaths per minute (when not crying)
- Making a grunting noise
- Sitting with shoulders hunched over
- Skin, nails, gums, or lips are a blue or gray color
- The area around your child's eyes is a blue or gray color
- Very tired or fatigued
- Not moving around much
- Has a limp or floppy body
- Nostrils are flaring out when breathing
- Does not feel like eating or drinking
- Has trouble sleeping
Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA.Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
Kelly MS, Sandora TJ. Community-acquired pneumonia. In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 428.
Shah SS, Bradley JS. Pediatric community-acquired pneumonia. In: Cherry JD, Harrison GJ, Kaplan SL, Steinbach WJ, Hotez PJ, eds. Feigin and Cherry's Textbook of Pediatric Infectious Diseases. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 22.