Community-Acquired Pneumonia, Infant

Community-Acquired Pneumonia, Infant

Pneumonia is a lung infection that causes inflammation and the buildup of mucus and fluids in the lungs. Community-acquired pneumonia is pneumonia that develops in people who are not, and have not recently been, in a hospital or other health care facility.

Usually, pneumonia in babies develops as a result of an illness that is caused by a virus, such as the common cold and the flu (influenza). It can also be caused by bacteria or fungi. While the common cold and influenza can spread from person to person (are contagious), pneumonia itself is not considered contagious.

What are the causes?

This condition may be caused by:
  • Viruses.
  • Bacteria.
  • Fungi, such as molds or mushrooms.

What increases the risk?

Your baby is more likely to develop this condition if:
  • Your baby has other lung problems.
  • Your baby has a weakened body defense system (immune system).
  • Your baby is being treated for cancer.
  • Your baby is in close contact with children who are sick, especially during the fall and winter seasons.
  • Your baby has a condition in which the stomach contents move back and up the throat (gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD).

Babies born to mothers who have untreated chlamydia are also at higher risk for developing pneumonia after birth. Chlamydia is an infection that a person can get through sex with another person (sexually transmitted infection or STI).

What are the signs or symptoms?

Symptoms of this condition may include:
  • A dry cough or a wet (productive) cough.
  • Breathing problems, such as:
    • Fast breathing.
    • Loud breathing (wheezing).
    • Nostrils opening wide during breathing (nasal flaring).
  • A fever.
  • No desire to eat.
  • Trouble nursing or taking a bottle.
  • Being less active and sleeping more than usual.

How is this diagnosed?

This condition may be diagnosed with:
  • A physical exam.
  • Your baby's medical history.
  • Lab tests on:
    • Blood and urine.
    • Mucus from your baby's lungs (sputum).
    • Fluid around your baby's lungs (pleural fluid).
  • Imaging studies, such as X-rays.

How is this treated?

Treatment for this condition depends on the cause and how severe the symptoms are.
  • Pneumonia that is caused by a virus may go away without treatment. In severe cases, your baby may be given a medicine to kill the virus (antiviral medicine).
  • Pneumonia that is caused by bacteria will be treated with an antibiotic medicine.
  • Your baby will need to be treated in the hospital if he or she is 6 months old or younger, has trouble breathing, or has a severe infection. If your baby has trouble breathing, he or she may need to be treated with:
    • Oxygen, if tests show that oxygen is low.
    • Medicines to treat infection, fever, runny nose, or cough.
    • IV fluids.

Follow these instructions at home:


  • Give your baby over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by his or her health care provider.
  • Do not give your baby cough medicine or cold medicine unless the health care provider says so. Cough medicine can prevent the body from removing mucus from the lungs.
  • If your baby was prescribed an antibiotic medicine, give it as told by your baby's health care provider. Do not stop giving the antibiotic even if your baby starts to feel better.
  • Do not give your baby aspirin because of the association with Reye's syndrome.

Eating and drinking

  • Breastfeed or bottle-feed your baby often and in small amounts. Slowly increase the amount. Do not give your baby extra water.
  • Have your baby drink enough fluid to keep his or her urine pale yellow. Ask the health care provider how much your baby should drink each day.

General instructions

  • Ask your baby's health care provider how you should help clear mucus. This may include using:
    • A vaporizer or humidifier. These machines add moisture to the air, which can loosen mucus.
    • A suction bulb or other tool to remove mucus from the nose.
    • Salt–water (saline) drops to loosen thick mucus in the nose.
    • A moist, soft cloth to clean the nose.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling your baby. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer. Ask other people in your household to wash their hands often, too.
  • Keep your baby away from secondhand smoke. If you smoke, make sure you smoke outside only and change clothes afterward.
  • Make sure your baby's surroundings help to promote rest.
  • Keep all follow-up visits as told by your baby's health care provider. This is important.

How is this prevented?

  • Keep your baby's vaccines up to date.
  • Make sure that you and everyone who provides care for your baby have received vaccines for influenza and whooping cough (pertussis).
  • If your baby is younger than 6 months, feed him or her only with breast milk, if possible. Continue this practice until your baby is at least 6 months old. Breast milk can help your baby fight infections.

Contact a health care provider if your baby:

  • Has trouble feeding.
  • Passes less stool or urine than usual.
  • Does not sleep or sleeps too much.
  • Is very fussy.
  • Has a fever.

Get help right away if your baby:

  • Has signs of trouble breathing, such as:
    • Fast breathing.
    • A grunting sound when breathing out.
    • Ribs appearing to stick out when he or she breathes.
    • Wheezing.
    • Nasal flaring.
    • Lips, nails, or face turning blue.
    • Short pauses in breathing during or after coughing.
  • Coughs up blood.
  • Vomits often.
  • Has symptoms that suddenly get worse.
  • Is younger than 3 months and has a temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher.
  • Is 3 months to 3 years old and has a temperature of 102.2°F (39°C) or higher.

These symptoms may represent a serious problem that is an emergency. Do not wait to see if the symptoms will go away. Get medical help right away. Call your local emergency services (911 in the U.S.).


  • Community-acquired pneumonia is pneumonia that develops in people who are not, and have not recently been, in a hospital or other health care facility. It may be caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi.
  • Treatment for this condition depends on the cause and how severe the symptoms are.
  • Contact a health care provider if your baby has trouble feeding, passes less stool or urine than usual, has trouble sleeping, is very fussy, or has a fever.

This information is not intended to replace advice given to you by your health care provider. Make sure you discuss any questions you have with your health care provider.