It is a myth that getting wet makes a person catch pneumonia. The cold virus that started the cough in the first place is contagious. However, pneumonia in the lungs is far less infectious.
Pneumonia means the inflammation within the lungs. Healthy lungs are an elaborate weave of more than 300 million tiny air sacs. When a child has pneumonia, these sacs fill with pus. It may affect one or more sections or lobes of the lungs.
Bronchopneumonia affects patches throughout both lungs. This ailment can be caused by bacteria, viruses, mycoplasma, chemical irritants or foreign bodies. The term ‘walking pneumonia’ denotes to a group of pneumonias mainly caused by a micro organism called mycoplasma pneumoniae that, even if untreated, would not hospitalise a child or even confine them to bed. The illness can, however, make a child feel miserable with a hacking cough, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle aches and fever.
The infection is spread mostly through droplets in the air, expelled when an infected child or adult blows their nose, sneezes, coughs or talks. Children can also become infected by shaking an infected child’s hand or touching contaminated objects, such as toys or clothing, and then touching their eyes, nose or mouth. As with any respiratory disease, children should be encouraged to cover their face when coughing or sneezing and to wash their hands frequently.
Antibiotics are usually used to help fight bacterial infection. They do not treat viruses. Your doctor can decide if it is bacterial or viral. Most cases get better with antibiotic pills. If your child, however, is blue or has rapid or laboured breathing, he or she may need to stay in the hospital for a day or two on IV antibiotics and oxygen.
Chest pounding or percussion therapy is very important. Four to six times each day, take your child into the bathroom with the hot shower on and let her breathe the steam for 10 minutes.
Use your cupped hand to firmly clap on your child’s chest, focusing on the zone that the pneumonia is in. Pound rapidly for one minute, then rest a minute, then continue again on and off for 10 minutes. This will shake the mucus and pus pocket, so your child can cough it up.
Encourage coughing during this time. You can use an expectorant to loosen the mucus stuck in the chest during the day. At night, you can use a combination expectorant and cough suppressant if your child is coughing a lot. If the cough is not too frequent, then don’t use a suppressant.
Since dry air makes the cough worse, a cold mist vaporiser or humidifier will help loosen secretions. Tobacco smoke makes the cough worse so do not let anyone smoke in the house when a child has pneumonia. This should be the rule even when the child is well. The cough will last longer in teenagers who have already started smoking.
Without treatment, the illness could last six to eight weeks. Even after treatment, many children will have a dry cough that lasts six weeks or more since it often takes that long for the damaged cells of the respiratory tract to completely heal.